Bryn Mawr in mourning

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October 8, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

UPDATE: A man hospitalized since the Sept. 27 workplace shooting at Accent Signage died of his injuries Oct. 10, raising the toll of the incident to six dead, plus the shooter.

Eric Rivers’ death was confirmed in a statement from his family posted on the Hennepin County Medical Center website:

Eric Rivers passed away peacefully last night. We are grateful for the incredible courage displayed by the men and women who responded to the emergency and the wonderful medical team at Hennepin County Medical Center, who cared for Eric. At this time, the family asks for privacy as we deal with this personal tragedy. We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.”

 

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Sudden, senseless rampage leaves six dead 

 

Like many who live or work in the neighborhood, Bryn Mawr Pizza and Deli employee Phil Guillen paid close attention to the information trickling out after the deadly Sept. 27 workplace shooting at nearby Accent Signage Systems. As he watched the reports on TV, Guillen got a feeling he couldn’t shake.

“The more I keep seeing that shooter’s face on the news, the more I keep thinking I saw him in here,” he said, referring to 36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger, the man Minneapolis Police say shot and killed five people before taking his own life.

The sudden, senseless outbreak of violence may haunt some in normally quiet Bryn Mawr for a while. But the urge to heal was just as strong.

Accent Signage employees vowed to return to work, even as flowers, candles and handwritten notes to the victims began to accumulate outside of the business at 2322 Chestnut Ave. W. They honored the dead: Reuven Rahamim, 61, of St. Louis Park, the Israeli immigrant and former Bryn Mawr resident who founded Accent Signage; Rami Cooks, 62, of Minnetonka; Ronald Edberg, 58, of Brooklyn Center; Jacob Bruce Beneke, 34, of Maple Grove; and Keith Basinski, 50, of Spring Lake Park.

A separate memorial honoring Basinski appeared outside Bryn Mawr Market in the neighborhood’s small commercial district, where the longtime UPS driver was a friendly and familiar face. Larry Smith, a clerk at the market, still couldn’t believe the youthful deliveryman he’d so often chatted with was anywhere near 50 years old.

“He always had a spring in his step,” Smith said.

Timeline

Engledinger’s poor performance and tardiness at work troubled his managers at Accent Signage, and one week before the shooting rampage he was informed in writing he must improve or be fired, according to a detailed account of the incident released Oct. 1 by Minneapolis Police.

That afternoon, he was called to a meeting in the office of John Souter. Engeldinger first left the building to go to his car, then returned to meet with Souter and Cooks just before 4:30 p.m.

The men told Engledinger he was terminated and handed him his final paycheck. That was when Engeldinger pulled out a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic. After a struggle, both Souter and Cooks were shot — Cooks fatally.

Rahamim stepped out of a nearby office. Engeldinger shot Rahamim multiple times, then moved on from the cluster of executive offices toward cubicles occupied by Accent Signage’s sales staff, where examples of the business’s innovative signs were displayed. There, he shot Beneke multiple times.

Entering the loading dock, Engeldinger shot Edberg and then Basinski, who was standing in his UPS delivery van near the edge of the loading dock. Engeldinger then moved on to the production area, where he shot at two more employees, grazing one and hitting Eric Rivers.

Finally, Engeldinger returned to the loading dock, walked down a flight of stairs and killed himself with a single gunshot. His body was found in the basement.

Rahamim, Beneke, Edberg and Basinski died at the scene. Cooks died later at Hennepin County Medical Center, where Souter and Rivers where in serious and critical condition, respectively, as of Oct. 2.

The shooting lasted only 10–15 minutes, said Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, who described the scene inside Accent Signage as “hellish.” As Dolan told it, Engeldinger seemed to select his targets, walking past some coworkers and firing at others.

Investigators searched Engeldinger’s South Minneapolis home and found another Glock 9 mm handgun, loaded, and packaging for an estimated 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Both guns were purchased legally. Police also found application materials for a conceal-and-carry permit, but state law prevents them from revealing whether Engeldinger possessed a permit.

It was clear, though, Engeldinger had been practicing, Dolan said.

Engeldinger had no criminal record in Minneapolis, and police said there was no evidence he threatened his coworkers prior to Sept. 27. But his estrangement from his family apparently caused concern among relatives, who told the Star Tribune they worried about signs of mental illness.

Remembering Rahamim

Rahamim wasn’t just the owner of Accent Signage, he was also the source of the ideas that turned the business into a showcase of innovation. A day after the shooting, Mayor R.T. Rybak recalled touring the business with federal commerce officials earlier this year, and called Accent Signage “one of the most important companies we have.”

Rybak touted the business’s strong overseas sales, noting its signs were installed everywhere from the White House to China. Rahamim lived the classic immigrant success story, he said.

Rahamim served on the steering committee of Think Green, a partnership between Minneapolis and St. Paul that focuses on promoting green business practices, working closely with 8th Ward City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden.

“This is a man who not only gave 110 percent to his own business, but he was willing to engage in the bigger picture — to engage in city committees, community and business associations that helped create the framework of a good environment, and infusing his values and ideas into those processes,” Glidden said. ”He was a real giver of his time — not just someone who was there because he had a successful business, which he did.”

Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association President Marlin Possehl said Rahamim served for a time on the neighborhood board. The board also held its monthly meetings in the Accent Signage conference room several summers ago.

“He seemed to be very gentle and caring, and had a great affection for the neighborhood,” Possehl said. “He was very competitive at the same time, and very innovative.”

— Sarah McKenzie contributed to this report.