A Tennessee worker said he was fired after he couldn't make it into work following a Memphis shooting spree.
The shooting spree on September 7 left parts of the city on high alert or lockdown for several hours.
Joseph Williamson, 26, said he was fired after he suffered anxiety, preventing him from getting to work.
A warehouse worker in Tennessee said he was fired after he couldn't get to work following the Memphis shooting spree earlier this month.
Joseph Williamson, 26, was on his way to jazz band practice at the University of Memphis when he unknowingly drove onto an active shooter scene on the evening of September 7. As he pulled into the parking lot at the university's music building, he realized he had a flat tire, rendering his means of escape effectively useless.
"As soon as I parked, I got out of the car and noticed I had a flat tire. So from the distance, I could see my friend with his bass drum running up towards me," Williamson recalled to Insider. "He said, 'Hey man, leave all your stuff in the car. We need to get in the building now. There's an active shooter at the University of Memphis.'"
Williamson had just started a new job as a package handler at a Charms Candy warehouse a week prior, but he said the shooting would cost him his employment.
'The first thing that popped into my mind is that I am going to die'
The shooting – which left three dead and three injured across Memphis – left parts of the city on high alert for hours as the suspect, 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly, led police on a high-speed chase and changed vehicles twice. The first killing happened in the early hours of September 7 at 12:56 am, and then the gunman resumed the "mobile mass shooting" at about 4:38 pm, according to ABC 24.
When he arrived at the university after his work day, Williamson initially thought his friend, Ellis Keplinger, was making a bad joke about a shooting, but he soon realized that Keplinger was right.
"I hear, bang, bang, and I see a crowd of people scattering. So I immediately just grabbed my friend, and we ran into the music building," Williamson said. "The first thing that popped into my mind is that I am going to die. Because here's my point of view: I get there, I have a flat tire, I get told there's a shooter on campus, then I hear gunshots, and now I'm in a room, and we can't lock the door."
Williamson and Keplinger sheltered in the music building at the university with a small group of others. They stayed there for over an hour until Keplinger suggested they go shelter at a nearby restaurant that he worked at where they could lock the doors and collect themselves.
At a restaurant called The Second Line, Williamson said they watched the shooting spree unfold on TV in real time. ABC 24 reported that two people were shot – one fatally – on Poplar Avenue, a few blocks away from where they sheltered at the restaurant.
Keplinger told Insider that when they arrived at the restaurant, the suspect "had just come down the street" and there were "a lot of cop cars driving after him." He added that Williamson, who he's known for years, was "just very shaken up" by the entire ordeal.
"We were horrified," Williamson said. "I'm stressing out, because I have work the next day in the morning, and I have a flat tire, and Memphis is now in lockdown, and there's a shooter out there."
Williamson said he called his company's human resources department and was assured that the situation was out of his control. He also texted his supervisor a photo of his flat tire, according to messages seen by Insider.
"I won't be at work tomorrow," he told his supervisor. "I got a flat in Memphis during the lockdown from the shooter. Heard the shots and sirens."
'I really just felt trashy, like I was disposable'
While Williamson was at the restaurant, swaths of the city went on lockdown as the shooting spree unfolded. The University of Memphis locked down at 7:30 pm, later followed by the AutoZone Park stadium, where fans watching a minor league baseball game sheltered in a press box, per ABC 24. The city's public transportation also suspended bus and trolley services, the outlet reported.
"I feel like I cannot trust anything or anyone. I feel like I am not safe at all from that experience. So I didn't go to work because one, I already called off due to the lockdown. But two, I felt like I couldn't do anything without shaking," Williamson said. "After the shooting, I'm a wreck."
Police announced in a tweet at 10:26 pm that they had the suspect in custody. Williamson said he and Keplinger tracked down someone to help him replace his flat tire, which took about an hour, and then it took another hour to get home as some streets in the city were part of a crime scene. When he finally got home after 2:00 am, he "couldn't sleep the whole night" due to his anxiety from the shooting.
Williamson was stunned when he got a call from his supervisor the next day, saying his work badge was deactivated and he was terminated due to his attendance.
"I didn't know what to say to that. And I said, 'Did I mention that I was in the middle of a shooting?'" Williamson recalled asking his supervisor. "And they said, 'Yeah, we understand that, but HR says that ... it still counts against you.'"
Williamson told Insider he had previously missed one other day of work, but he was told upon hiring that he just needed to explain any absences to his superiors ahead of time.
"They said that if you have two no-calls, meaning you just didn't show up to your shift, then after that they get rid of you," Williamson said. "They just said that as long as we contact the supervisor and HR about why we're not there, we will be fine, which I did both times."
A spokesperson for Charms Candy, owned by Tootsie Roll Industries, did not respond to Insider's multiple requests for comment.
In the aftermath of the shooting and being terminated, Williamson said he felt "heavy."
"I really just felt trashy, like I was disposable, and this was a time when I really needed someone to talk to about this, and I felt like no one was taking it seriously," Williamson said. "I didn't deserve to get let go because of basically being a victim."
Read the original article on Insider