Plaintiff Barbara Springer, a Woodstock woman who works at the Cherokee Sheriff's Office, claims managers were made aware of 60-year-old Jessie James Warren's threats and did not take "reasonable steps to protect" employees. The suit, dated Thursday and filed in State Court of Cobb County, also states that a professional counselor provided Warren guidance after the Temple man made "repeated overt threats" to kill people at the facility.
Springer is seeking monetary compensation "to be determined by the enlightened conscience of the jury."
Cobb Police said Warren, dressed in camouflage and armed with a handgun, entered the Penske facility at 3011 Barrett Lakes Boulevard at around 1:30 p.m. Jan. 12 and began shooting. Police said he confronted his first victim in the parking lot before proceeding into the facility through the ground level where he continued to shoot throughout the main floor and truck bay area.
Van Springer 59, of Woodstock; Roberto Gonzalez, 31, of Dallas; and Jaider Phillipe Marvlanda, 43, of Lawrenceville, were killed. Zachariah Werner, 35, of Kennesaw; and Joshua B. Holbrook, 27, of Rome, were critically injured. Holbrook was later released to a rehab center.
After the shootings, police say Warren fled in a Chevy pickup truck and was arrested about 10 minutes later at the intersection of McCollum Parkway and Duncan Road, about a mile away from the Penske facility. He has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is being held without bond.
Penske spokesman Randy Ryerson declined to address the specific allegations Friday, but said in a statement the company was working to support the families of the victims.
"The incident was an unpreventable random act of violence committed by a former associate, who had been dismissed almost six months prior to the shooting," he said. "Because we understand that a lawsuit has now been filed, we will not provide any additional comments at this time."
In the lawsuit, the widow also contends that a mental health counselor the company assigned to Warren "utterly failed" to warn the proper authorities of Warren's death threats. The company, it said, should have taken extra security measures to prevent Warren from carrying out the threats.
Mark Tate, the Savannah attorney who filed the suit, said Penske's managers decided to hire a security guard to patrol the grounds after receiving the threats. But he said the company cut the service after two weeks, instead putting a can of mace in the office for protection.
Warren worked at Penske from June 2005 until July 2009, the company said, but it did not say why he left.