Warrants: Jammed gun saved potential victim in factory shooting

Oct. 4, 2016: Search warrants reveal that a jammed gun may have saved another potential victim in a deadly Athens workplace shooting in September.

MCMINN COUNTY - Search warrants connected to a fatal workplace shooting at an Athens factory reveal new details about the incident and what investigators found in the suspect's car. 

According to the documents obtained by 10News, authorities seized a gun belt, a gun magazine containing eight rounds, a cell phone, and two boxes containing .45-caliber rounds from a truck registered to Thomas & Betts employee Ricky Swafford. 

RELATED: Athens shooting 911 calls show bravery, emotion

On Sept. 22, Swafford, 45, shot and killed his two supervisors, James A. Zotter, 44, and Sandra H. Cooley, 68, after he became upset with them during a meeting, according to investigators. TBI said Swafford abruptly left that meeting and the building but then returned a short time later. 

Shortly after officers arrived on scene in response to an active shooter call, they found Swafford dead in a bathroom with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound and located Zotter and Cooley in an office. 

The warrants, filed in McMinn County Circuit Court, also indicated that Swafford tried to shoot the plant manager, but his gun jammed. 

The manager came around the corner of the hallway and saw Swafford standing several feet away with a gun, the search warrant affidavit added.  

"The manager stated that Mr. Swafford pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. When the gun jammed, the manager was able to barricade himself in his office and call 911," TBI Special Agent Jason Legg explained in the affidavit.  

Investigators also went to Swafford's Athens home but didn't seize anything from the property.

The warrants show they were looking for evidence tied to First Degree Murder violations including evidence that Swafford owned a firearm, ammunition, proof of employment at Thomas & Betts, along with computers or other digital media. 

The Thomas & Betts facility reopened on Monday. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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