The 19-year-old FedEx worker who shot six co-workers last week is dead, and now his father hopes something else will die: His son’s legacy.
“I don’t want him glorified somehow,” Scott Kramer said. “He can’t be made into a sympathetic character. You see the Columbine kids and the trench coats and the (school security) video of them shooting. Others see it and say ‘Here’s how you do it.’”
Including, perhaps, Geddy Kramer himself — who planted explosives and stalked through the distribution plant in Kennesaw early Tuesday firing at workers before turning the shotgun on himself. A classmate of Kramer’s from North Cobb High School remembers Kramer as “fascinated” by the 1999 Colorado school rampage and says he wrote a class paper about it.
“I am not sure why he did this,” said the student, Joseph Ruff. But he has a notion.
“I feel like, in my head, Geddy was ready to go out and he wanted to go out with a bang,” Ruff said. “He was fed up and didn’t want to go out alone. Why? I don’t know.”
After 15 years, Columbine undoubtedly still casts an outsized shadow. Only Thursday, police in Minnesota announced the arrest of a 17-year-old student who, they said, planned to kill his parents and attack two schools with guns and explosives. They said he idolized the Columbine killers, among others.
Does Geddy Kramer fit that same, twisted mold? Until police release his suicide note and other evidence – which they have flatly refused to do – his motive remains shrouded in speculation. And for every friend or acquaintance who remembers an ominous detail, there are others who recall only a quiet, funny and even-tempered kid.
But over the course of the week, through dozens of interviews, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has pieced together a portrait that is suggestive if not definitive. It reveals a young man adrift and perhaps isolated, pulling double shifts at a job he disliked, and taking steps in secret to join the notorious club his father so detests.
Scott Kramer, too, has spent the week searching for answers.
The father, who left his Acworth home to avoid the constant attention from media and curiosity seekers, ranges from numbness to despair to anger at his son. He had more questions than answers when he spoke at length to the AJC Thursday afternoon.
For all he can see, Geddy was much like his first victim, security guard Chris Sparkman. Both were grads of North Cobb High, trying to find their way in the world without benefit of a college degree. So alike, yet so different.
“You have Christopher Sparkman, an Army veteran, who just got married and was starting his life and doing the right things. Then you have Geddy, who went in to work and tried to kill people,” Kramer said.
“What’s the difference? Where did I go so wrong? Where did they go right? I poured a lot of love into him.”
He knows it may never make sense. “I’ve prepared to resolve myself that it will always be a mystery.”
But there’s just one thing he’s utterly sure of: “I want Geddy’s name to die.”
Classmates and neighbors remember a smart and friendly teen who didn’t leave much of a mark. He was in band in middle school, although no one remembers what instrument he played. He is recalled as humorous, but classmates are at a loss to describe much more about his personality.
Geddy — who was named for Geddy Lee of the band Rush — sat in front of Maria Leal for four years in homeroom but they never had substantial interaction.
“He was quiet, but seemed funny; he would always make his guy friends laugh,” said Leal. She does not think Kramer had a girlfriend. “He wasn’t a nerd, just different. He dressed like a rocker. Black. Hoodies.”
Brandon Kozumplik remembers that in middle school, “he had real long hair and looked rebellious.” In high school the hair was cut short and, it seemed, “he was getting it more together.”
Geddy’s mother posted on her Facebook page that her son had been bullied, although she did not mention which of her two boys. None of the dozen or so students interviewed ever saw or heard of any such problems.
“In North Cobb, you’re either athletic or in the band; he was neither,” Kozumplik said. “He was just a student going to school … He wasn’t like a Columbine killer. He was a nice kid.”
Shelby Taylor said Geddy “didn’t have a bad life. His parents were divorced, lived with his dad. He never complained about his personal life and his dad was a pretty good guy.
“He liked video games, but he wasn’t obsessed,” Taylor said. “He liked rock music and metal. He didn’t do drugs. He wasn’t too popular with girls. He didn’t try to interact with people outside of his circle.”
However, on occasion, Kramer could display a temper.
“If someone was talking bad about him, he would usually confront them. He wasn’t quick to violence, but he was quick to confront,” Taylor said.
One high school classmate said Kramer attended Chattahoochee Tech after high school but dropped out.
Last year, a friend and neighbor, Lucas Dziedzic, suggested he get a job at the nearby FedEx plant, which was hiring package handlers. Workers say the jobs pay $11 to $14 an hour, but the work is endless and tedious — loading 500 to 600 packages from the conveyor belts onto waiting trucks over four- or five-hour shifts.
Seemingly, the happy-go-lucky kid was no longer so carefree.
“He was fine; he did the job,” said Jaelen Miller, a package handler who has worked there two years. “He had a little weird side to him. He didn’t laugh much. He wasn’t a joke type of person.”
One worker said she recently complained to superiors because he kept pointing a laser bar-code scanner at her eyes. She explained workers often horse around to make time move faster, but Kramer went past the point of funny.
Outside the workplace, Kramer still told jokes – but, in retrospect, some have a chilling edge. Dziedzic told a TV station Geddy “would joke around about shooting up his workplace.”
Later, he backed away somewhat from that remark, saying: “He joked around a lot about a lot of things. Whenever he complained, we just thought it was Geddy being Geddy.”
But another North Cobb High friend, Ed Khomich, who once worked at FedEx, heard Kramer make similar jokes months ago. He, too, paid little heed.
“It was just a young guy joking about stupid stuff,” he said. “I think we all do it. But no one expects you to do it. He was just complaining.”
Khomich said Kramer often strung together a couple four-hour shifts, starting before midnight and getting off after 8 a.m. “He sleeps all day and comes out at night,” he said. “It was just weird.”
Scott Kramer said his son didn’t talk about the job much. It was simply work. He went about his job dutifully and, in fact, his father said, “he was actually cited as employee of the month or something in February.”
Money was not an issue. Geddy lived rent free and had no big expenses that his dad was aware of, nor did he have romantic entanglement that had gone awry.
“We’re a middle class family with middle class values; he grew up not wanting for anything,” Scott Kramer said. “I would describe him as carefree. Nothing really bothered him. That is why this is a shock to me.”
There were things, though, that Kramer didn’t know.
According to Geddy Kramer’s co-worker Collin Harrison, Kramer hadn’t shown up for work since the previous week. He had asked for the Saturday off, and, after a supervisor denied the request, took the day off anyway. And he hadn’t showed up for his 4 a.m. shift Tuesday — although his father recalls his leaving home around 10:30 Monday night.
Scott Kramer also did not know that his son had purchased a shotgun.
“We are not a family that has guns in the house,” he said.
Police later found the box in Geddy’s bedroom.
Shortly before 6 a.m., Geddy drove the dented Honda Civic he was buying from his dad to the terminal’s entrance, and fired at close range on the security guard, Sparkman. Then he stalked into the building, firing away.
A manager shouted, “Gun!” and a worker hit the emergency stop on a conveyor belt.
Harrison was loading a truck when he heard a man shouting, followed by a woman’s terrified screams. Then a voice on a manager’s radio urged everyone to flee the building. Next, he saw Kramer, some 30 feet away.
“He’s in a black skullcap, black vest, black fatigues and he was aiming down his (gun)sight at the side of the building where they unload packages,” said Harrison.
By the time Kramer’s mission was complete, six workers were wounded. Three victims were initially critical, although all are expected to survive. Perhaps Kramer’s inexperience with the gun proved fortunate. Doctors told at least one victim that he was lucky to be hit by birdshot rather than buckshot, sparing him more serious injury.
Supervisors got kudos afterward for staying in the plant to get employees got out safely. One was seen putting pressure on Sparkman’s wound to stanch the bleeding.
Scott Kramer was at his home work office, when he got a text from a family member asking if Geddy was OK, there had been a shooting at FedEx.
“I hoped he was being rounded up with all the other workers,” he said. “Then the SWAT team banged on the door.”
Kramer said the fact that all victims should survive has heartened him. He said his friends and family keep asking him, “What can we do for you?”
“Well, they can’t do anything,” he told a reporter. “But you can do something. Make this go away. Make it die.”
Ariel Hart, Christian Boone, Rosalind Bentley and Jennifer Brett contributed to this story.
Geddy Kramer remembered
“I remember talking with him a few times after class, not about anything important. He seemed like a nice kid. I don’t know what happened to him.”
— Kari Sicard, who went to high school with Kramer at North Cobb High
“He was a quiet, laid-back person. He kept to himself. I had classes with him, but I didn’t know him as well as others. I didn’t notice any internal problems with him.”
— P.J. Greene, who also went to North Cobb
“I didn’t want to acknowledge that it was real. I was really upset. A person taking their own life is hard. He was just a regular kid.”
— Sarah Walker, a 19-year-old freshman at Kennesaw State, who met Kramer in a high school math class
“He didn’t seem capable of that type of thing. I thought he was always a nice, healthy kid with his own way of thinking. I guess you never know what’s going on in someone’s head. Never would’ve seen it coming from him.”
— Classmate Marcus Jones, who made short films based on funny stories Kramer told
“I would not have a negative thing to say about him. He kept to himself. I guess you would call him a loner or introvert.”
— LaMya Wilkins, who played in the band with Kramer in middle school
“He was a cool kid. People try to play him like an animal or a weird loner. But he knew who he was. He never tried to fit in. He was just always Geddy. He never tried to copy or follow anybody.”
— Daniel Perez, who was best friends with Kramer in 4th grade
“He was one of the smartest kids in the class, he always studied for tests … He was just a cool guy, just your average guy. Cool and chill. He was really social went it came down to it. It’s crazy.”
— Myles Shepard, who shared math class with Kramer in middle school and was acquainted with him in high school.
“I would get on the bus, sometimes I would be kind of sad. He’d joke around with me to make me feel better.”
— Mercedes Hardnett, who said she affectionately nicknamed him “Geddy Spaghetti”