Just minutes before his 6 a.m. quitting time Fed Ex security guard Christopher Sparkman came face-to-face with a co-worker he didn’t recognize. Just three feet away, the package handler opened fire, striking Sparkman, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Kuwait, in the stomach. Over the next 20 minutes, for reasons yet unknown, he’d shoot five more FedEx employees.
A dazed but coherent Sparkman, bleeding badly, called 911. His is the first voice heard on 20 minutes of 911 tapes from the April 29 shooting released Tuesday by Cobb County police.
“I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot,” Sparkman said, his tone measured, reflective of his military training.
In the background, another call to 911 is overheard, this one much more frantic. After a few long pauses, the first sounds of panic are heard from Sparkman, 28, as he implores a co-worker to “put more pressure” on his wound.
“Tell my wife I love her” he tells the operator. “I’m losing energy really fast.
“Please God, hurry,” Sparkman tells the operator. “I do not want to die.”
Meanwhile, Geddy Lee Kramer, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and a bandolier draped across his chest, headed from the parking lot toward the warehouse.
Inside the 550,000-square-foot facility, the North Cobb High School graduate began firing indiscriminately.
A FedEx supervisor, huddled with one of Kramer’s victims, calls 911. His attention is divided as he directs fleeing employees outside. An emergency operator presses the supervisor for answers as police, who began gathering outside within 3 minutes of the first 911 call, attempt to assess what’s going on inside.
But the supervisor’s attention is diverted by responsibility. He can be heard repeatedly urging co-workers to evacuate.
“Getting people out is my job, ma’am,” he said.
He goes on to tell the operator he doesn’t know the gunman’s name “but I’ve seen him here before … earlier in the day.”
Randy Kitfield said he heard what sounded like heavy boxes hitting the conveyor belts. He initially ignored it “because you hear it all the time” but said the scene got “real ominous, real quiet,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kitfield looked down the hallway and saw somebody run with a gun on the other side of the terminal. “I thought, maybe it’s the cops; I thought maybe a bomb scare or something,” he said.
Liza Aiken was correcting package addresses when she said she “heard a clink.” She turned to her left and saw Kramer drop his knife. “He looked like he was heading into war,” she told The AJC.
Back in the guard’s shed, as co-workers flee, a female worker stays behind to tend to Sparkman.
“He’s very light. He’s very pale,” she tells the operator. “Please help him. He’s so pale. Please hurry.”
She tries to reassure Sparkman. “You’re going to be all right. They’re coming,” she said. Sparkman, now barely audible, asks her to contact his wife of less than a year, Jamie Lynn.
Calls continues to come in to 911 operators, but little information is gleaned from the dazed workers. Though they worked at the same plant for half-a-year, none of the callers could name Kramer as the shooter.
From the tapes, released through Georgia’s open records law, it’s unclear when the shooter turned the gun on himself in a trailer behind the warehouse. Cobb police say they still don’t know what motivated Kramer’s rampage.
As one life ended, paramedics rushed to save Sparkman and five other injured co-workers transported to nearby Kennestone Hospital. Sparkman and Melissa Shadow, 52, remain hospitalized; she is listed in good condition.
Sparkman is expected to survive but faces a long road to recovery. His family says they are optimistic even as he faces a sixth surgery Wednesday morning. They hope it’s his last — for now.
“It’s been up and down over the past seven days” Sparkman’s family reported Tuesday on the web site established to provide updates, “and we know that the journey has still just begun.”
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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com