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Lockheed Martin allowed a “racially charged atmosphere” to grow at one of its factories for years, culminating in a deadly shooting spree by a white worker last year, a federal agency said Monday. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the company was aware of the hostile work environment in Meridian, Miss., but failed to stop it. Doug Williams harassed black workers “through racially hostile, threatening and demeaning comments” from December 2001 until he shot 14 people on July 8, 2003, according to the report. Six of the victims died, and 12 of the 14 victims were black. Williams committed suicide. The company’s inadequate response to Williams’ threats allowed the hostile environment to intensify, “culminating in the shooting of 14 individuals,” the report said. Attorney Jackie Smoke, who helped craft the EEOC complaint filed on behalf of the shooting victims, said two of the slain workers had increased their life insurance policies before the shootings. “Their spouses said that Williams told them he had targeted them,” Smoke said. Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout e-mailed a statement to The Associated Press saying the company disagreed with the EEOC’s determination but could not comment because of pending litigation. The EEOC report came at the request of victims’ families who are considering suing the Maryland-based company on claims that the workers’ civil rights were violated. “We find that this hostile environment exists as to all African-American employees employed at the Meridian, Miss., location,” the EEOC said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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