The Wakefield “Massacre” Attack

Nov. 17, 2020
What happens when St. Michael sends a man back in time to kill Hitler and prevent the Holocaust? We'll never know, but that's what this perpetrator's defense was.

With anti-gun vitriol being so common after any active shooter event, and with so many uneducated people talking about guns, it’s an almost predictable occurrence that we’ll here about how “an AK-47 was used” in any given attack. In actuality, the attack that occurred in Wakefield did involve the use of an AK-47 and it apparently got so little news coverage that few remember it having happened. Of course, that statement doesn’t apply to those family members and friends who lost someone in the attack.

On December 26, 2000, Michael McDermott went to work like it was any other day at about 9am in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He was employed at Edgewater Technology as an application support employee. Reportedly at about 11am he was seen in the lobby area of the business carrying the weapons he had with him that day: an AK-47, a pump-action 12g shotgun and a .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol. When asked where he was going with the weaponry he allegedly replied that he had to see some people in Human Resources. It was reportedly at the reception desk where McDermott shot his first victim, Ms. Janice Hagerty, who was filling in for the receptionist that day. Also at the reception desk he shot Ms. Cheryl Troy, Edgewater Technology Vice President of Human Resources.

From there, McDermott moved through the company, shooting employees as he went. He reportedly shot some in the legs before shooting them in the head, and shot others repeatedly in the head, either front or back. McDermott worked his way toward the accounting section of the company where several employees had locked the door in an attempt to secure the room and keep McDermott out. He reportedly shot the lock out to gain entry and shoot two employees therein.

All total, McDermott shot approximately 37 rounds of ammunition over a period estimated between five and eight minutes, killing seven of his fellow employees.  There were a reported 80 employees in the building when McDermott went on his rampage and after he stopped shooting, no one could explain why. The victims ranged in age from 29 to 58, four women and three men in that spread. When the police arrived in response to the numerous 9-1-1 calls they received, McDermott was sitting in the reception area with his long guns on the floor on either side of him and the loaded pistol in his pocket, unfired. Upon first contact from the police, McDermott assumed a demeanor apparently intended to support an insanity defense when his charges would go to trial.

Michael McDermott was born September 4, 1958 in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and raised at least through his high school years there. After graduating from high school, McDermott enlisted in the Navy where he served six years before being honorably discharged in 1982. After getting out of the Navy, McDermott worked at various companies in related electronics fields (he was an Electrician’s Mate in the Navy). He didn’t jump from job to job, holding one position at least six years and another for at least eight. He got married in 1992, separated in 1996 and divorced in 1997. Very little in his background indicated that he was capable of the violence he demonstrated in the Edgewater Technology attack, although one service mate remembered him “accidentally” cutting someone with a knife once.

Given that McDermott did his best to support an insanity defense from the first moments he was contact by the police, little is known about his motivation for the attacks. In the months prior to the attack he allegedly was remiss in paying his rent and his personal appearance became quite disheveled. There was some speculation that his anger toward Edgewater Technology’s HR department stemmed from a pending garnishment of his wages based on action from the IRS.

During the search of his apartment in the post event investigation, an additional weapon was found: a bolt action hunting rifle obviously not used in the attack. Police also found materials that could have been used for making improvised explosives.

Immediately after the event and then during the trial, McDermott claimed, at various times, to be a time traveler sent “back” in time to kill Hitler and several of his minions. He said this was an action he was ordered to perform by the Archangel St. Michael to stop the Holocaust. He claimed (or believed) that this action would earn him a soul, that he was German and that he died after committing the attack. He made statements to the affect that he was now in purgatory waiting to be deemed worthy of entry into heaven.

Unfortunately, with some events, there’s simply nothing law enforcement could do different or any better. Response time almost always depends on how fast the call is received, how fast it is dispatched and then the realities of physics which control how fast an officer can get from here to there. While the reports say McDermott’s attack lasted between five and eight minutes, and to those in the building that’s far more than a lifetime, it seems to be about the average for a shooting attack. Six or seven minutes is a time frame we see all too often as the perpetrators either stop their attack, attempt to escape, are engaged by the police, or commit suicide rather than being engaged by the police.

In this instance, where potential victims are concerned, it’s demonstrated that locking yourself in a room may not actually equate to security. McDermott used his shotgun to blast open the door to the accounting office where several employees had taken refuge, and wherein he murdered two of them. This example needs to be remembered anytime we’re teaching people about secure rooms, protected areas, etc. A lock may not be enough to keep an attacker out.

About the Author

Joshua Borelli

Joshua Borelli has been studying active shooter and mass attack events over the course of the past several years, commensurate with receiving training on response and recovery to natural disasters and civil disturbances. Joshua started to outline this series of articles in an attempt to identify commonalities and logistical needs patterns for response.

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