Crime and Courts

Amid string of violent incidents at Chicago-area businesses, security expert weighs in on workplace violence

Security expert weighs in after four separate workplace violence incidents broke out in just one week

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City Winery in Chicago's West Loop remained closed on Thursday following a fatal stabbing between employees Wednesday night, the latest of multiple workplace violence incidents in recent days across the Chicago area.

Police said a 47-year old employee was stabbed multiple times with a knife at around 5 p.m. by a 41-year-old co-worker. The victim was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition where he was later pronounced dead.

The man was identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as Francois H. Reed-Swain of south suburban Harvey.

City Winery Founder and CEO Michael Dorf told NBC Chicago's Courtney Sisk they don’t have any more details into what transpired between the two team members, but called it tragic.  

Dorf said they are looking into it with Chicago police detectives, adding that their immediate need is their "traumatized team."

Employees at City Winery were offered counseling on Thursday, according to Dorf.

The fatal stabbing was the latest in a string of violent workplace incidents across the Chicago area over the past week.

Last week at Eataly in downtown Chicago, a disgruntled baker was accused of pulling a gun on co-workers during an argument.

On Saturday, an unknown person stabbed a worker in the Ross department store in the Loop.

Wednesday morning, an Elmhurst Portillo's closed after police say a male subcontractor, who had a domestic relationship with one of the women, began attacking her with two large knives.

"Certainly workplace violence has always been present, but now more than ever we have stressors," Sean Ahrens, a security expert in workplace violence prevention said. "Stressors could be at home, they could be finances, basically the straw that breaks the camel's back.”

Ahrens has decades of experience in security, and identified workplace violence as a key concern. He says there are four types of workplace violence incidents.

  1. Criminal Intent: typically viewed as an armed robbery at a workplace
  2. Worker and customer: violence between worker and customers or clients
  3. Worker-on-worker: Violence between coworkers
  4. Personal relationship: When domestic violence occurs at the workplace

“Communication is the most important thing to preventing workplace violence," Ahrens said. He also explained what customers inside businesses should do if they notice a situation escalating.

"First and foremost, let’s get away from that situation. Do not record with your phone because one, you’re glued into the video, you don’t know what's going on around your surroundings, and secondly, you may anger that aggressor towards you," he said.

There are specific semantic responses to be on the lookout for.

"Tightening your fists, clenching your jaw, a flushed face," Ahrens said. "Once they’re yelling, you’re only steps away from someone acting out.”

Ahrens also puts together programs and guidelines to proactively mitigate risk during terminations.

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