FBI officials are investigating a beheading at an Oklahoma food distribution center after co-workers said the suspect tried to convert them to Islam after his own recent conversion.
The suspect, Alton Nolen, 30, was recently fired from Vaughan Foods in Moore prior to Thursday’s attack. Moore Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Lewis told KFOR that Nolen drove to the front of the business and struck a vehicle before walking inside. He then attacked Colleen Hufford, 54, stabbing her several times before severing her head. He also stabbed another woman, 43-year-old Traci Johnson, at the plant.
Lewis said Mark Vaughan, the company’s chief operating officer and a reserve county deputy, shot Nolen as he was stabbing Johnson, who remains hospitalized in stable condition Friday.
“He’s a hero in this situation,” Lewis told the station. “It could have gotten a lot worse.”
Nolen was apparently attacking employees at random, authorities said. The motive for the attack is unclear, but FBI officials confirmed to Fox News that they were assisting the Moore Police Department in investigating Nolen's background and whether his recent conversion to Islam was somehow linked to the crime.
The police department issued a statement saying, "After conducting interviews with Nolen's co-workers, information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert several employees to the Muslim religion. Due to the manner of death and the initial statements of co-workers and other initial information, the Moore Police Department requested the assistance of the FBI in conducting a background investigation on Nolan."
Nolen, according to state corrections records, was convicted in January 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention. He was released from prison in March 2013.
Saad Mohammad, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told NewsOK.com that leaders of the society’s mosque are taking security precautions to protect Muslims who gather there from any potential retaliatory violence.
Mohammad said any anti-Muslim sentiments local residents might have could be heightened due to the beheadings and violence overseas by Islamic State militants.
“They have this ISIS thing on their minds and now this guy has brought it to America,” Mohammad told the website.
Lewis said he does not yet know what charges will be filed against Nolen, adding that police are waiting until he's conscious to arrest him. Authorities said he had no prior connection to either woman.
Moore Police Department officials have released 911 calls from the incident, OKCFox.com reports. During the recording, a caller tells an operator that a person is attacking someone in the building. Several gunshots can be heard in the background at the end of the call.
A Vaughan spokeswoman said the company was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.