Police identify 3 Navy Yard victims
Tue, Feb. 13, 2007
The gunman who killed three and then himself in a conference room at a Navy Yard office building last night believed he was the victim of a business fraud, police said.
Authorities said the killer, Vincent Dortch, 44, of Newark, Del., set up the meeting on the pretense of bringing in another investor in Watson Inc. but clearly intended to kill the company’s executives.
Police identified the three men who were fatally shot as:
* Mark Norris, 46, of Piles Grove, N.J.; president and CEO of Zigzag Net, the building's primary occupant.
* Robert Norris, 41, of Newark, Del., vice president of business development for Watson International, the company having the meeting.
* James Reif, 42, of Endicott, N.Y.
A fourth victim, identified as ZigZag employee Patrick Sweeney, was still in critical condition this morning at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, police said.
As soon as the meeting began around 8:30 p.m., Dortch, who had carried two bags to into the conference room, pulled out an AK-pistol - a shorter version of the AK-47 assault rifle — and told his intended victims they were responsible for stealing money from him, police said.
“He said something to the effect that you have a minute or two to say your prayers,” said Joseph Fox, the chief of detectives.
Dortch pulled out the phone lines, ordered one of the men in the room to duct tape the others and escorted two other investors out of the room, assuring them they would be okay.
He then returned to the conference room and opened fire, killing three men and wounding the fourth, police said.
He also shot the three executives in the head at close range after bringing one of the unharmed investors back into the room, Fox said.
Dortch took the two unharmed investors to his car and directed them to drive to New York state, where he planned to kill a fourth company executive who had been on the telephone via a conference call when the meeting began.
They somehow talked him out of it and Dortch took them back into the building and duct taped them to chairs in a back office.
The wounded man — Sweeney, a company employee from Maple Shade — in the meantime had spliced the wires of the phone together with his loosely bound hands and dialed 911 on the speaker phone.
Police rushed into the building and when Dortch confronted one officer he said, “don’t come any further” and fired once with a Glock .40-cal pistol.
The officer returned fire, apparently hitting Dortch through a door. Dortch then shot himself in the head.
Fox said the investigation had not yet determined if Dortch was right in believing he had been defrauded.
Dortch may have invested up to $200,000 in the firm, which owned a resort in upstate New York.
The three murder victims hailed from Endicott, N.Y., and teamed with other investors a little more than a year ago to buy a 200-year-old country club - formerly belonging to IBM Corp. - in their home town.
Walsh & Sons Construction Corp., of Vestal, N.Y., sold the country club building and about 10 surrounding acres to Watson International for $1.325 million, said Walsh & Sons owner Jim Walsh.
Walsh said he knew the three murder victims and a fourth investor, Vasantha Dammavalam, but said there were other investors from the Philadelphia region whom he had never met.
Robert Norris and and James Reif were high school friends, Walsh said. He said Norris was a football star at Union Endicott School in Endicott, N.Y., which is near Binghamton.
Watson International's property was heavily damaged by a flood last June, but as far as Walsh knew, Watson International was in line to receive an insurance settlement to help pay for damages.
Patricia Norris, Robert Norris' wife, answered the phone this morning at her home in Newark, but said she was "not prepared to talk at this time."
Police said one of the duct-taped victims had been so tightly bound that they had to cut him free.
The scene inside the conference room was "utter chaos," deputy police commissioner Ross said.
Officers at the scene called for SWAT support. At that point, someone from inside the building came from behind the shooter and told police that he was dead.
Police said the fatal wound was self-inflicted.
"This is a tragic situation," Ross said, "one that you always hope would not hit Philadelphia. Unfortunately, today it did."
The wounded man arrived at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital about 9 p.m. with multiple wounds.
A spokesperson said the man underwent surgery but remained in critical condition.
About 10:30, a woman leaped out of a police vehicle and was hustled into Jefferson's emergency-room entrance at 10th and Sansom Streets.
The primary tenant of Building 79, where the crime took place, is Zigzag Net Inc., a Web site development company involved in advertising.
John Grady, senior of vice president of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which is in charge of leasing space at the Navy Yard, said Building 79 is a 10,000-square-foot, two-story building on the waterfront. About a year ago, Zigzag leased 5,000 square feet on the second floor.
Last night's shootings was the worst single incident since the Lex Street massacre of December 2000, when 10 people were gunned down inside a West Philadelphia crackhouse, seven of them fatally.