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The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than forty people were gunned down by spree killers in at least twenty incidents of workplace rage.
The earliest citation is December 17, 1993 in the St. Petersburg Times:
|“||The symposium was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, which has seen so many outbursts that in some circles excessive stress is known as 'going postal.' Thirty-five people have been killed in 11 post office shootings since 1983. The USPS does not approve of the term "going postal" and have made attempts to stop people from using the saying. Some postal workers, however, feel it has earned its place appropriately.||”|
December 31, 1993 in Los Angeles Times:
|“||Unlike the more deadly mass shootings around the nation, which have lent a new term to the language, referring to shooting up the office as "going postal."||”|
A former United States postal worker, Joseph M. Harris, killed his former supervisor with a sword, and shot his girlfriend at their home. The following morning, on October 10, 1991, Harris shot and killed two employees at the Ridgewood, New Jersey Post Office.
On November 14, 1991 in Royal Oak, Michigan, Thomas McIlvane killed five people, including himself, with a Ruger 10/22 rifle in Royal Oak's post office, after being fired from the Postal Service for "insubordination." He had been previously suspended for getting into altercations with postal customers on his route.
Two shootings took place on the same day, May 6, 1993, a few hours apart. At a post office in Dearborn, Michigan, Lawrence Jasion wounded three and killed two (including himself). In Dana Point, California, Mark Richard Hilbun killed his mother, then shot two postal workers dead.
As a result of these two shootings, in 1993 the Postal Service created 85 Workplace Environment Analysts for domicile at its 85 postal districts. These new positions were created to help with violence prevention and workplace improvement. In February 2009, the Postal Service unilaterally eliminated these positions as part of its downsizing efforts.
Jennifer San Marco, a former postal employee, killed six postal employees before committing suicide with a handgun, on the evening of January 30, 2006, at a large postal processing facility in Goleta, California.
Police later also identified a seventh victim dead in a condominium complex in Goleta, California where San Marco once lived.
According to media reports, the Postal Service had forced San Marco to retire in 2003 because of her worsening mental problems. Her choice of victims may have also been racially motivated; San Marco had a previous history of racial prejudice, and tried to obtain a business license for a newspaper of her own ideas, called The Racist Press, in New Mexico.
Grant Gallaher, a letter carrier in Baker City, Oregon, pleaded guilty to the April 4, 2006 murder of his supervisor. He reportedly brought his .357 Magnum revolver to the city post office with the intention of killing his postmaster. Arriving at the parking lot, he reportedly ran over his supervisor several times. Subsequently he went into the post office looking for his postmaster. Not finding the postmaster, he went back out to the parking lot and shot his supervisor several times at close range, ostensibly to make sure she was dead. He then reportedly fired several more bullets into the supervisor's car.
Grant Gallaher reportedly was on a new route for three weeks and had felt pressured by a week-long work-time study and an extra twenty minutes added to his new route. On the day of his rampage, he reportedly was ahead of schedule on his route and his supervisor brought him more mail to deliver. He allegedly decided to take the matter up with his postmaster on his cell phone and then went home to get his .357 Magnum revolver to exact his revenge. The work climate had reportedly improved from what it was in 1998, the year a union steward, age fifty-three, at the Baker City post office committed suicide.
Researchers have found that the homicide rates worker at postal facilities were lower than at other workplaces. In major industries, the highest rate of 2.1 homicides per 100,000 workers was in retail. The next highest rate of 1.66 was in public administration, which includes police officers. The homicide rate for postal workers was 1.48 per 100,000.
However, not all murders on the job are directly comparable to "going postal". Taxi drivers, for example, are much more likely to be murdered by passengers than by their peers. Working in retail means one is exposed to store robberies. In 1993, the United States Congress conducted a joint hearing to review the violence in the U.S. Postal Service. In the hearing, it was noted that despite the postal service accounting for less than 1% of the full-time civilian labor force, 13% of workplace homicides were committed at postal facilities by current or former employees.
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