An Oklahoma man who could face the death penalty for allegedly beheading a co-worker was suspended from his job after telling someone else whom he later stabbed in an argument that "he didn't like white people," the prosecutor in the case said Tuesday.
"There was an altercation about him not liking white people," Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said in announcing that Alton Nolen, 30, had been charged with first-degree murder in Thursday's beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughan Foods processing plant in Moore, Oklahoma.
Nolen, who had converted to Islam and shouted Arabic terms during the attack, also was charged with felony counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Mashburn said the attack appeared to have been motivated by revenge because the woman Nolen later stabbed, Traci Johnson, 43, had complained about his racially charged comments. They had a "back and forth," which led to the complaint and Nolen's suspension, he said.
"It had more to do with race rather than trying to convert people," Mashburn said. "He was basically saying that he didn't like white people."
The FBI also is investigating the attack, given Nolen's interest in beheadings and a recent surge in violence in the Middle East, the prosecutor said.
Nolen goes by the name Jah'Keem Yisrael on his Facebook
page. The page also features anti-U.S. comments and pictures of Osama bin Laden and other jihadists.
"There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings," Mashburn said. "It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way.
"Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day."
Nolen was shot and wounded by Mark Vaughan, the company's chief operating officer, who is a reserve sheriff's deputy in Oklahoma City. He fired from his rifle while Nolen was attacking Johnson, striking him once and stopping the attack. Johnson was later hospitalized.
Mashburn said it was "highly likely" prosecutors would seek the death penalty against Nolen, but that they would first confer with Hufford's family.
Mashburn said that after being suspended from his job, Nolen retrieved a knife from his home and "returned to get revenge on the people he felt were responsible for getting him suspended and who had wronged him."
He had the knife in his shoe when he returned to the plant, according to a police affidavit.
Nolen walked into the plant's administrative office in suburban Oklahoma City and first came across Hufford, whose back was facing him, Mashburn said.
He attacked Hufford from behind, severing her head, Mashburn said.
"He felt that he had been wronged by her or oppressed by her in some manner, and he chose to attack her," the prosecutor said.
Nolen then stabbed Johnson and "cut her across the throat and left side of her face," and later told police he was attempting to behead her as well, Mashburn said.
The prosecutor added that more charges could be forthcoming against Nolen, as witnesses are interviewed. Other Vaughan Foods employees may have been injured in trying to stop the attack, he said.
"They threw chairs, kicked at him," Mashburn said. "There were a lot of people trying to protect their co-workers and stop the attacks.
"There may have been more employees that suffered injuries. We can always add counts."
Over the weekend, Nolen's mother and sister posted a video message on Facebook
saying they were shocked and saddened by the charges against him.
"My son was raised up in a loving home," his mother, Joyce Nolen, said in the video. "My son was raised up believing in God. Our hearts bleed right now because of what they're saying Alton has done."
A cousin, James Fulsom, 29, said Tuesday that Nolen did not mention his conversion to Islam in conversations as recently as February.
According to Oklahoma prison officials, Nolen was released from prison in March 2013 after serving two years of a six-year sentence on charges that included assaulting a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper involved in the October 2010 assault now says that "I wish I'd killed"
Nolen. He had hit her and fled when she tried to arrest him after stopping him for having a paper tag on his car that appeared to be fake.
"I was never afraid of him, or I would have," Lt. Betsy Randolph told KOCO-TV
in Oklahoma City on Friday. Her hand was injured in the altercation.
Nolen received no misconduct reports during his incarceration at five separate facilities, according to Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie. He completed his probation in March.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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