Daily Updates

August 26, 2013

Gunman, boss in Florida shooting were once close

LAKE BUTLER, Fla. — A longtime employee of a Florida trucking company was once very close with his former boss, even described as his right-hand man. But police say Hubert Allen Jr. drove around Saturday and shot former co-workers and his onetime boss, killing the ex-employer and another man before turning a gun on himself.

On Sunday, residents in this close-knit community near Jacksonville mourned and tried to piece together what happened. Police didn’t release any new details or information on a possible motive.

“Mr. Hubert was a real quiet guy,” said the Rev. Patrick Maxwell of the Victory Christian Center. “He wasn’t the type who would go around and say I have a grudge against anyone.”  

Maxwell said he visited Allen’s daughter and grandchildren after the shootings. The family was as surprised as the rest of the town and had no idea what sparked the shootings, Maxwell said.

Allen’s wife died in the late 1990s and he lived alone. Maxwell said he had developed a serious heart disease and his church had prayed for him recently. Allen, 72, didn’t attend the church, but his daughter and grandchildren did.

It wasn’t yet clear why Allen stopped working for Pritchett Trucking Inc.

On Saturday, Allen drove to a location owned by his former boss, Marvin Pritchett. He shot and killed former co-worker Rolando Gonzalez-Delgado, 28, around 9 a.m., then went a short distance and killed Pritchett, 80, who founded the company in 1980.

A few minutes later, Allen pulled over where another former co-worker was driving a farm tractor, exchanged words with him and fired a shotgun, authorities said. The victim, 66-year-old Lewis Mabrey Jr., was in good condition Sunday, hospital spokeswoman Nickie Doria said.

Allen then went to the company’s headquarters in Lake Butler and shot 44-year-old David Griffis in the stomach, the sheriff’s office said. Griffis was in critical condition Sunday.

Allen killed himself at his nearby home.

It was clear to everyone in town that Allen and Pritchett had a good relationship at one point. “You had the assumption, no, the conviction, that they were close,” Maxwell said.

Pritchett grew up in Union County and was constantly involved in businesses, from gas stations to truck companies to his beloved farm, Rolling Oaks. Residents said he was known around town as Mr. P, a generous man who gave to charitable groups and projects and treated his employees well.

“He arrived at work before anyone else. He was always there for his employees,” Bill Thomas, who worked as a dispatcher for Pritchett for several years, said outside Pritchett’s longtime church, First Christian. As Thomas spoke, the church bell, which can be heard across town, rang.

“He was instrumental in that, too,” he said, explaining that Pritchett helped finance the new bell.

The church prepared for a prayer service Sunday evening. The Rev. Art Peterson said he met with Pritchett’s family and counseled them. “It’s rough. They’re still in a state of shock, but they’re coping,” he said.

Thomas, who left the trucking company six years ago, said he used to see Allen around often, overseeing Pritchett’s farm.

“He was always Mr. P.’s right-hand man,” Thomas said. But it had been several years since he had seen Allen, he said.

Thomas said Allen was the great-grandfather of NFL running back C.J. Spiller, who started a game for the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night despite the shootings.

Thomas said Allen had an influence on Spiller’s life.

“I believe he had a lot to do with C.J.’s upbringing. In the South, families are very close, and grandparents are around every day,” Thomas said. “C.J. is a fine young man and, like I said, Hubert was a fine man. I have no idea why he did what he did. It just blows my mind.”

Spiller was born in Lake Butler and was a star at Union County High School.

After the game against the Washington Redskins, a Bills representative stood at Spiller’s locker and said the running back would have no comment.

On Sunday, flags flew at half-staff at the trucking company’s headquarters. The company’s website said it employs 400 people and owns hundreds of vehicles that operate around the country.

 

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