CHATTANOOGA – Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations joined investigators with several other agencies in investigating a workplace shooting at a manufacturing plant in Athens that left two victims and the shooter dead.
On Thursday, at the request of 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, TBI Special Agents joined officers with the Athens Police Department, along with the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office, in investigating the circumstances that led to the shooting at the Thomas & Betts plant Thursday afternoon.
The preliminary investigation indicates that Ricky Swafford, a long-time employee of the plant, became upset during a meeting with his two supervisors. Swafford, 45, abruptly left the meeting, and the building. He returned shortly afterward and went to the office and found his supervisors, James Zotter, 44, and Sandra Cooley, 68. Swafford shot both of them and continued to walk through the plant. Some employees were able to warn others of an active shooter, and employees evacuated the building. When responding officers arrived, they found Swafford’s body in a bathroom of the plant, deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. No other employees were injured in the shooting incident.
The TBI’s Violent Crimes Response Team with Special Agent Forensic Scientists from Nashville arrived at the location Thursday evening to collect evidence, and have been processing the scene through the night. Special Agents continue to interview witnesses as the investigation continues and collect additional evidence. The bodies of the two victims, as well as that of the shooter will be taken to the Medical Examiner’s office in Knoxville for autopsies.
This remains an active and ongoing investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the case file will be turned over to the District Attorney General for his office’s review.