Suspect to face questions over worker’s beheading

A MAN who was shot after authorities say he beheaded one woman and attacked another at an Oklahoma food processing plant from which he had just been fired has regained consciousness and been interviewed by detectives

Alton Nolen stands accused of beheading a woman employee, and stabbing another. Picture: AP

Alton Nolen, 30, remains hospitalised in stable condition after Thursday’s attack at the Vaughan Foods plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, police sergeant Jeremy Lewis said. He said that Nolen will be charged today with first-degree murder and assault and battery with a deadly weapon and that he may also face federal charges.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for an Oklahoma City Islamic group said that Nolen was a frequent worshipper at a mosque and that he remembers the suspect as “a little weird.”

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“He was a nice, quiet, low-key guy,” said Saad Mohammed, director of information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. “He acted a little odd,” Mr Mohammed said.

Sgt Lewis said Nolen was fired from his job just before the attack, and that he then drove from the building that houses the company’s human resources department to its main distribution centre.

Once inside, he attacked 54-year-old Colleen Hufford with a knife in the centre’s administrative office area, eventually severing her head, according to police. Nolen then repeatedly stabbed 43-year-old Traci Johnson before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot him, police said.

Ms Johnson was treated for her injuries at the University of Oklahoma Medical Centre, where she was released on Saturday, said Varina Shellman, clinical coordinator for the medical centre. Lewis said Johnson was interviewed on Saturday.

Police discovered Nolen was fired for “numerous reasons” involving “personnel issues,” Sgt Lewis said, adding that he did not know specific details.

Police asked the FBI to help investigate Nolen after co-workers told investigators he had recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam. He said police asked the FBI to look into Nolen’s background because of the nature of the attack, which followed a series of high-profile videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants in Syria.

Mr Mohammed said Nolen had attended services where sermons were delivered condemning such attacks.

In a statement, FBI special agent James Finch said the motive for the attack had not been determined, but that there was no reason to believe there was a threat to anyone else.

“We don’t have any reason to believe there is any danger to the area,” Sgt Lewis said.

According to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records, Nolen served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery of a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with the intent to distribute in 2011.

The records show that Nolen has what appear to be religious tattoos, including one referencing Jesus and one in Arabic that means “peace be with you.”