OKLAHOMA CITY — A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police say.
Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said police are waiting until Alton Nolen, 30, is conscious to arrest him and have asked the FBI to help investigate after co-workers at Vaughan Foods in the south Oklahoma City suburb told authorities that he recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam.
During Thursday’s attack, Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, Lewis said.
“Yes, she was beheaded,” Lewis told The Associated Press before a Friday news conference.
Lewis said Nolen then stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, a number of times before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot him.
“This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it. It could have gotten a lot worse,” Lewis said. “The threat had already stopped once we arrived.”
Lewis said Moore police have asked the FBI to look into the man’s background because of the nature of the attack, which follows a series of videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants.
In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch said the motive for the attack has not been determined but that there is no reason to believe there is a threat to anyone else.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the AP that while there was indication that Nolen was a Muslim convert and was trying to convert others to Islam, there is so far no connection to terrorism and no evidence of any worrisome travel.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Nolen had a Facebook page that was of potential interest to investigators but that “there doesn’t appear to be any nexus to terrorism right now.” But the official also said investigators were still looking into Nolen’s background.
Johnson and the suspect were hospitalized and in stable condition Friday, Lewis said. Nolen had not yet been charged and Lewis said he didn’t know what charges the suspect would face.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections records say Nolen has served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery on a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute in 2011.
Corrections records show Nolen has what appear to be religious tattoos, including one referencing Jesus and one in Arabic that means “peace be with you.”
Lewis said Nolen had been fired in a building that houses the company’s human resources office, then immediately drove to the entrance of the business. Lewis said he didn’t know why the man was fired.
A Vaughan spokeswoman said the company was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the attack.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.