TAR HEEL, N.C. – During a press conference held outside the facility, officials from the Bladen County Sheriff’s office confirmed a shooting occurred at the Smithfield Foods Inc. Tar Heel, North Carolina, plant the morning of Nov. 21, injuring two employees. A male employee of a contract sanitation company working at the plant overnight, reportedly used a 9 mm handgun to shoot two Smithfield workers in a stairwell.

According to Sheriff Jim McVicker, five shots were fired, injuring a male employee who the suspect alleged having a physical altercation with several weeks prior to the shooting. A female employee thought to be an innocent bystander, was also shot and both victims were transported by life flight to separate hospitals to be treated for gunshot wounds. McVicker reported the male victim underwent surgery at the hospital and was in stable condition.

According to the sheriff, police officials were called to the plant in response to reports of an active shooter at the facility, and after locating the victims and evacuating the building, they were able to arrest a suspect without incident. He said other employees of the plant knew the suspect and were able to speak to him by phone, assisting in his surrender. According to McVicker, employees were allowed back into the plant after the suspect was apprehended and the crime scene was secured, which was about 90 minutes after the evacuation.   

Kyle Narron, vice president of operations at Smithfield, told reporters at the press briefing that firearms are not allowed in the company’s plants and employees’ bags are routinely checked by security workers as they enter the building. He added that the evacuation of the building to protect employees is part of the company’s established protocol.

He thanked the first responders for their quick response and acknowledged the bravery of the Smithfield workers assisting in apprehending the suspect. “We will provide support to our team members directly and indirectly that were impacted by this incident,” he said. “We’ll have a full evaluation of our security program after this unfortunate incident.”

The company also issued a statement: “We are shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting that took place at our Tar Heel, North Carolina, processing facility overnight,” said Keira Lombardo, a company spokeswoman. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our two Smithfield family members who suffered serious injuries and were taken by life flight to hospitals, and their families and loved ones.”