Gunman kills two, takes own life at Tennessee factory

(Reuters) - A gunman opened fire on his co-workers at a manufacturing plant in eastern Tennessee on Thursday, killing two people before taking his own life, police said.

Officers responding to reports of a shooting shortly after 4 p.m. CDT at Thomas & Betts Corp in Athens, Tennessee, found employees running from the building and three people dead inside, Athens Police Chief Charles Ziegler told a press conference.

"Our officers did find 3 deceased individuals, one of whom is we believe the shooter, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Ziegler said.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel newspaper reported that the gunman was an employee of the factory and that the two victims were his co-workers.

The paper said that the shooter's body was found in a bathroom of the plant alongside a semi-automatic pistol that was used in the attack.

Authorities did not identify the victims or the gunman on Thursday."All you can say is, people are in shock," Zeigler told the News-Sentinel. "I had several personal longtime friends in there when the shooting was going on."

Athens is about 50 miles southwest of Knoxville, near the state's borders with Georgia and North Carolina.

Representatives for Thomas & Betts, which manufactures electrical and electronic components, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday evening.

The News-Sentinel said the 118-year-old company is a unit of Swiss conglomerate ABB and employs more than 1,300 people in Tennessee.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry)

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