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Why Jim Badasci 'Went Postal': How Bullying Bosses and Economic Devastation Are Behind America's Latest Workplace Shooting

Baldasci's shooting opens a window into Fresno, Calif.'s climate of soaring unemployment, scheming agribusiness oligarchs and Sean Hannity-inspired right-wing rage.
 
 
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There was another workplace rampage killing last week, just outside of Fresno, Calif., leaving two company employees dead and the other employees grateful to be alive.

Fresno, like so much of unofficial America, is still in a state of shock these days, after suffering from a nonstop barrage of tragic events and trends, of subprime devastation, a three-year drought, and political corruption and machinations that seem to be accelerating with every month.

So, unlike workplace shootings in the past, this one was quickly pushed off the front pages and almost forgotten, just a couple of days after it happened.

But like so many workplace shootings, scratch the surface of Fresno today to get a sense of context, and you'll be shocked by how corrupt, desperate and bizarre the situation has become.

Pull the camera back from the scene of the crime, and suddenly you get Sean Hannity making regular appearances on behalf of agribusiness oligarchs, and beleaguered Mexican farmworkers gang-pressed into marching 50 miles in the Central Valley heat calling for the repeal of the Endangered Species Act … but more on that a bit later.

Here's what happened last Tuesday: Jim Badasci, who had worked at Fresno Equipment Co. for 10 years, showed up Tuesday at 8:57 a.m. with a shotgun, and the first thing he did was kill co-worker Ralph Wallis. About two dozen co-workers scattered at that point, some taking refuge at a nearby car wash, others reportedly hiding inside of a locked vault, as Badasci, wearing a hunting vest filled with ammo, proceeded to "shoot the equipment" -- in this case, John Deere agricultural machinery.

Shooting utility tractors may seem strange or psychotic to anyone who hasn't studied these workplace shootings, but if you believe Badasci was trying to kill the company, which he believed was killing him, then shooting anything on company grounds makes perfect sense.

The really surprising part of the story is how four of the employees managed to stop Badasci from killing anyone else. Although few details have come out about how they managed to persuade an armed man to stop shooting, a close friend of Badasci's believes this proves that he was not a wild madman randomly killing, but rather a normal man who had become desperate.

Rather than kill more fellow workers, Badasci took his own life.

It was all over in a few minutes; as always, the police and SWAT teams arrived just beyond the nick of time.

So why did Badasci shoot? What drove him to it, and who was he after? Officially, we don't know. But one local report on KSEE24 TV, which no one else picked up, offered a rather clear explanation:

We spoke with Michael von Flue, a former co-worker of Jim Badasci, who says that this was out of character for him. That Jim would go out of his way to help others and that he had a good home life. Von Flue did not want to go on camera, but tells KSEE24 News,"This is what happens when a company mismanages their employees and fails to treat them with respect."

In an e-mail exchange with von Flue, he told me that Badasci had been driven to desperation by a particular supervisor and the company's toleration of the supervisor's mistreatment.

Von Flue apologized for all the grammatical errors in his e-mail, noting how difficult the last week has been, and how little he has slept. He dismissed the idea that drugs played a part, but then went on to speculate that maybe he suffered from some kind of mental illness that was triggered by the harassment and mistreatment Badasci suffered.