Oklahoma Beheading Linked to Islam

A fired Oklahoma worker beheaded a woman and was attacking another when he was shot. Workplace violence? Or terrorism.

A fired Oklahoma worker beheaded a woman and was attacking another when he was shot. Workplace violence? Or terrorism.

AP (“Police: Woman beheaded at Oklahoma workplace“):

A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police said Friday.

Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said police are waiting until Alton Nolen, 30, is conscious to arrest him in Thursday’s attack and have asked the FBI to help investigate after co-workers at Vaughan Foods in the south Oklahoma City suburb told authorities that he recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam.

Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, Lewis said.

“Yes, she was beheaded,” Lewis told The Associated Press before a Friday news conference.

Lewis said Nolen then stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, a number of times before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy and the company’s chief operating officer, shot him.

“This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it. It could have gotten a lot worse,” Lewis said. “The threat had already stopped once we arrived.”

Lewis said Moore police have asked the FBI to look into the man’s background because of the nature of the attack, which follows a series of videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants.

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch said the motive for the attack has not been determined but that there is no reason to believe there is a threat to anyone else.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the AP that while there was indication that Nolen was a Muslim convert and was trying to convert others to Islam, there is so far no connection to terrorism and no evidence of any worrisome travel.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Nolen had a Facebook page that was of potential interest to investigators but that “there doesn’t appear to be any nexus to terrorism right now.” But the official also said investigators were still looking into Nolen’s background.

Johnson and the suspect were hospitalized and in stable condition Friday, Lewis said. Nolen had not yet been charged and Lewis said he didn’t know what charges the suspect would face.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections records say Nolen has served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery on a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute in 2011.

KFOR (“FBI investigating claims Oklahoma beheading suspect tried to convert co-workers to Islam“):

The FBI is now looking into Nolen’s background after his former co-workers said he tried to convert them to Islam after converting to the religion himself.

Lewis says the FBI is working in conjunction with the Moore Police Department, especially when it comes to the religious aspect of the case.

At this time, it is not known if the suspect’s beliefs played a role in the attack.

Adam Soltani, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, says Nolen’s actions are condemned by the Muslim community and his faith should not be connected to this horrific crime.

“It’s really unfortunate that there’s a lot of attention on Muslims these days for actions of people who are either part of extremist groups or who have extreme ideas. However, Islam is clear on what it stands for. Islam stands for peace, Islam stands for justice, Islam stands for love for humanity, compassion and mercy. What this gentleman did in Moore, which is inhumane and barbaric, is definitely not a representation of what our faith teaches and we hope and pray that justice will be brought against the perpetrator soon, so that the victims and their families can find some sort of solace in that justice,” he said.

Soltani added that what Nolen did is the “antithesis of every teaching of the Islamic faith.”

This is, obviously, a grisly and tragic story. Yet, while the beheading seems clearly tied to the recent ISIS videos, there’s no evidence yet that this is anything more than a horrible case of workplace violence, motivated by anger rather than any political goals. I’d be shocked if this turns out to be part of some larger plot.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Them Okie teaheads around my mom’s place near Tulsa are already screaming: “Sharia law is a comin!”

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Can we at least call it “Islamist-flavored workplace violence?” Or is this going to be another never-solved mystery, like the motives of the Fort Hood shooter and the Boston Marathon bombers and DC snipers and the Little Rock Army recruiters shooting?

  3. Franklin says:

    Flavored? Maybe. This is hardly the first time a fired employee has killed former co-workers. The method was rather unusual, however.

  4. Tyrell says:

    Another horrible news event. I wonder how much this man was connected to Islamic extremism and influence. It could be that he was brainwashed and programmed to do this. But by whom? And for what reason ? Hopefully the investigations will come up with answers and the complete report will be made public, not classified or “top secret” and locked away in some unknown storage basement in Washington with the rest of so many cases that are kept from the public for no reason: JFK assassination, Booth conspiracy, King assassination.
    Events like this seem to be on the increase and it is getting just depressing.

  5. bandit says:

    @Mark Ivey: The first terrorist murderer apologist has spoken

  6. bill says:

    weird how little press this story got, i saw it on facebook via a friend and then hardly anything. granted i don’t like them glorifying the real sheetheads when they make a video of it, but this is in our own back yard now.

  7. JKB says:

    Probably not a planned plot, just an angry Muslim acting like an angry Muslim. The conspiracy happened back in the 8th century.

    I guess we could consider these guys sleeper agents who suddenly become active.

  8. bill says:

    @JKB: plus he was stopped by a guy with a concealed handgun, that’s an extra reason to smother the story.

  9. @bill: It was all over CNN when I was eating lunch the day it happened (it was on the TV where I was eating). That’s not a very good job of smothering the story.

  10. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: CNN gave it a good amount of coverage, as did the “big three” on their evening news. Locally it did not get much. Our paper headlined high school football scores, and an article about local traffic problems: in a town that has 3 stoplights !

  11. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Can we at least call it “Islamist-flavored workplace violence?”

    Ah, nothing like someone dying a horrible death to bring out would be humorists among us. Well, maybe you would be a humorist, if only you were even a tiny bit funny or clever.

    Why not call it what it probably is, a mentally disturbed person that latched onto a delusional image of a religion, not a rational person who actually understands and practices that religion.

  12. Tyrell says:

    This nutcase evidently had been released from prison by a parole board or something like that. Even the judge who put him away said he had no business being out. Somebody needs to be held accountable for this ! I guess now his lawyer will try to pull the insanity defense and get him in some cozy hospital for a few years and then be out on the streets again, roaming around in search of more victims !

  13. bill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: i don’t watch tv, have yahoo for my homepage/newsfeed. did it go national, not a lot of news on it? did they mention the guy who shot him and prevented further injury/death? or is it just more black on white crime then?
    imagine if a white christian dude went nuts and spouted wacky biblical crap while beheading a black woman….maybe that would be newsworthy?

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Right, because “beheading” and “demanding women be subservient to men” are completely foreign to Islam, and have never been linked to Islam anywhere else in the world, at any time.

  15. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    A deranged person might quote scripture with great accuracy – does that make him a practicing Christian?

  16. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    beheading

    What percentage of the world’s Muslims do you think have actually beheaded someone?

    It’s interesting, what you fixate on, and what it tells us about you. Can ISIS make you roll over, beg, and do other tricks?

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: What percentage of the world’s Muslims do you think have actually beheaded someone?

    Turn it around, numbskull. What percentage of deliberate beheadings are committed by Muslims acting in the name of their faith?

    It’s a variant of the old observation that “while most Muslims aren’t terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims.”

  18. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s a variant of the old observation that “while most Muslims aren’t terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims.”

    How many innocents did we kill in our war with Iraq, a nation that neither threatened us nor attacked us?

    How many innocents did we kill in our war in Viet Nam, a nation(s) that neither threatened us nor attacked us?

    Do you have a moral justification for the fire bombing of Dresden? How many people did we incinerate to impress the Soviets?

    You have a funny moral compass. A small group of Muslims kill a few, or a few hundred, or a few thousand, and they are some kind of unique evil. We kill many, many, many times that, and we are… we are what, exactly? Do you really think that you don’t have blood on your hands?

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: If you’re so outraged over the US’ conduct, feel free to declare war on the US. (Or, if you prefer, jihad.)

    Oh, that’s right. You didn’t say you were outraged. You hinted that way, but — as usual — you didn’t commit yourself. You never do.

    Do you dispute that most of the world’s conflicts feature outraged Muslims on at least one side of the fight? That most of the acts of terrorism are committed in the name of Allah? That very few beheadings are done by people who don’t shout “Allahu Akbar?”

    How many roads must a man walk down
    Before you call him a man?
    How many seas must a white dove sail
    Before she sleeps in the sand?
    Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
    Before they’re forever banned?

    See, I can ask rhetorical questions, too. It’s a handy way of not saying anything of substance, while provoking the other party into haring off on irrelevant topics.

    You’re quite good at it. It took me quite a while to tumble to your habits. Now, though, it’s just… mildly annoying, and pathetically easy to bust.

  20. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Oh, that’s right. You didn’t say you were outraged. You hinted that way, but — as usual — you didn’t commit yourself. You never do.

    You know, for a self-professed champion of personal freedom, you are quite the little control freak. No one writes what you want them to write, and you never tire of whining about it.

    I think a reasonably bright 15 year old could infer from what I have written that I am, indeed, outraged. WTF would I mention it otherwise? Do try and keep up.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That very few beheadings are done by people who don’t shout “Allahu Akbar?”

    By all means, focus on a tiny number of beheadings. It will take your little mind off tragic, horrible deaths that are taking place within driving distance of your home.

    That most of the acts of terrorism are committed in the name of Allah?

    Hmm. Millions of people around the world think we are the terrorists. Are you sure that you are 100% right and they are 100% wrong? Perhaps you are simply to intellectually limited to put yourself in the shoes of someone living in a different country and culture halfway around the world.

    pathetically easy to bust

    So you really don’t see that you get bitch slapped from one end of the internet to the other on a nearly daily basis here on OTB? I guess a tenuous grasp of reality is probably best for a .. person such as yourself.

  22. anjin-san says:

    How many roads must a man walk down
    Before you call him a man?
    How many seas must a white dove sail
    Before she sleeps in the sand?
    Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
    Before they’re forever banned?

    Dylan is, by and large, an Obama supporter. Why don’t you quote one of the great conservative troubadours/poets/rock stars?

  23. KM says:

    Workplace violence? Or terrorism.

    Considering the man was just fired, workplace violence. It has “terrorist” trappings (he’s Islamic, the method of death) but really, if he’d just shot up the place like other disgruntled/angry/crazy ex-employees have over the years, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. This was not a plot, not prior planning. It was a nutcase who decided to take out his rage on his co-workers like the @&^#$*$*# he is. Maybe he saw the videos and it stuck in his mind as “appropriate” disproportionate revenge. Maybe it appealed to the inner psycho in him. Maybe he really is a religious nut and into historical cruelties. Maybe he wanted 15 minutes of fame on TMZ as That Guy, who know?

    Man’s not a terrorist. He is a plain old murderer, however – something that keeps getting lost in the sensationalism of the act.

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Turn it around, numbskull. What percentage of deliberate beheadings are committed by Muslims acting in the name of their faith?

    I don’t know. I’m pretty sure you don’t either. Historically, of course, Christianity and China are way ahead of Islam in the beheading department.

    It’s a variant of the old observation that “while most Muslims aren’t terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims.”

    Hardly an ‘old’ observation, given that (1) ‘terrorism’ is a fairly new concept, and (2) even over the span of my lifetime it’s only very recently that most terrorists in the news have been associated with Islam in any way.

    By the standards of evidence and association used in this article, “Invasion of Iraq Linked to Christianity” would be a perfectly valid headline.

  25. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Do you dispute that most of the world’s conflicts feature outraged Muslims on at least one side of the fight?

    Yes.

    That most of the acts of terrorism are committed in the name of Allah?

    Yes.

    That very few beheadings are done by people who don’t shout “Allahu Akbar?”

    Yes.

    I await your refuting data with great anticipation.

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DrDaveT: Historically, of course, Christianity and China are way ahead of Islam in the beheading department.

    Don’t forget France and England.

    On second thought, forget France, England, Christianity, and China for the purposes of this discussion — which is about current events, not history.

    “Hmm. We have five people beheaded in the past few months. Going on past trends, we’re looking for radical Muslims, post-revolutionary French, medieval Christians, or Imperial Chinese. Start looking into all those groups for suspects.”

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DrDaveT: Here’s the answer to the first one.

    Going by the list of conflicts that result in at least 10,000 deaths a year, three of four involve Muslims (the exception is the Mexican drug war). Take it down to 1,000 deaths a year, there are 13 such conflicts. Those that do NOT involve Muslims on at least one side are the Central African Republic conflict and the War in Donbass (eastern Ukraine).

    If you take it down to 100+ deaths, it adds another 17 conflicts, six of which don’t involve Muslims.

    There’s also a “less than 100 deaths a year” list, but I’ll skip that one. It adds another 13, and a casual glance indicates that it wouldn’t change the conclusion, but I don’t feel like digging that far. If you insist, I will add those numbers, but quite frankly they’re small potatoes compared to the ones I’ve already looked at.

    So, depending on where you draw the line, the numbers are 3 in 4, 9 in 13, or 20 in 30. 75%, 69%, or 66%. I’d call each a solid majority.

    You got an alternate definition or listing or set of criteria you’d like to use? I’m pretty comfortable with my comment, and my supporting evidence.

  28. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: OK, I ran the numbers on the “less than 100” conflicts. 7 of 13 do NOT involve Muslims on at least one side, so that would take it to 27 of 43, or just under 63%. Still a comfortable majority.

    So I’m gonna stand pat on that hand. You wanna call or fold?

  29. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    We have five people beheaded in the past few months.

    In the USA, about 10,000 children are killed our injured by gunshots each year. That is todays current events lesson.

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/01/27/3206581/kids-gun-violence-killed-injuries/

    But ISIS wants you to obsess about beheadings, and you are a good little lapdog.

    How does it feel to have terrorist scum as the landlord of so much real estate in your head?

  30. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You wanna call or fold?

    I’m fairly certain that he just wanted to watch you jump through a few hoops. But by all means, pat yourself on the back until your arm is numb.

  31. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: I think I’m gonna have to set up a macro for this:

    “You got anything on the topic at hand to contribute, or you just looking to irritate me, as usual?”

    But I’ll take your all-too-typical non-topical blathering as acknowledgment that you can’t refute my arguments. Because when you can find what you think is a flaw in what I say, you jump all over that. When all you have is mockery, it’s because you have nothing else.

  32. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “You got anything on the topic at hand to contribute”

    Actually, I made a number of comments about “beheading linked to Islam” in this thread that were directed at you that you have not responded to. Perhaps you could stop whining that I am not writing what you want me to write and respond to them…

    Here you go, you can have another chance:

    We have five people beheaded in the past few months.

    In the USA, about 10,000 children are killed our injured by gunshots each year. That is todays current events lesson.

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/01/27/3206581/kids-gun-violence-killed-injuries/

    But ISIS wants you to obsess about beheadings, and you are a good little lapdog.

    That very few beheadings are done by people who don’t shout “Allahu Akbar?”

    By all means, focus on a tiny number of beheadings. It will take your little mind off tragic, horrible deaths that are taking place within driving distance of your home.

    That most of the acts of terrorism are committed in the name of Allah?

    Hmm. Millions of people around the world think we are the terrorists. Are you sure that you are 100% right and they are 100% wrong? Perhaps you are simply to intellectually limited to put yourself in the shoes of someone living in a different country and culture halfway around the world.

    Don’t try to be clever dude, you are simply not good at it.

  33. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    you can’t refute my arguments.

    I’m sorry, were you presenting an argument? All the rest of us can see is that ISIS wants you frightened and panicky and it is working.

    Meanwhile, three people are killed by guns in America every hour…

  34. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Why don’t you quote one of the great conservative troubadours/poets/rock stars?”

    Because he doesn’t know how to spell “wang dang doodle.”

  35. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “On second thought, forget France, England, Christianity, and China for the purposes of this discussion — which is about current events, not history.”

    Apparently you’ve also never heard of Northern Ireland, where competing tribes of devout Christians spent most of the last century committing acts of terrorism in the name of their fath. Or Spain, and its Basque separatist terrorist movement. Or the various right-wing militias that operate in the US. Or hell, the environmentalist terrorists who do the same. Or the Shining Path down south.

    I guess it’s easy to say that all terrorists are Muslims if your defininition of terrorist is “a Muslim guy who commits violence.”

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: So, you challenge my “history vs. current events” argument by… bringing up a conflict that was resolved last century. And your list of other conflicts is… weak, even for you.

    The Basques? Didn’t even make the list. Neither did the right-wing militias or the environmentalist terrorists. Peru barely made the cut, with maybe ten deaths in the last two years.

    I guess it’s easy to say that all terrorists are Muslims if your defininition of terrorist is “a Muslim guy who commits violence.”

    Once again, you’re lying so you can have a fresh straw man to set on fire. I never said “all terrorists are Muslims.” But it’s a truth you don’t like to admit that “most terrorists are Muslims.” And it’s another truth you don’t like to admit that most of the current wars have at least one faction killing in the name of Allah.

    And no, I haven’t forgotten the time you flat-out lied about one of my positions, then gave a total non-apology when you had the truth rubbed in your face. Nice showing you haven’t learned, and haven’t changed.

  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Wait, you might have a point. There was that British soldier who was murdered and nearly beheaded on the streets of London last year. That was a couple of IRA boyos, right?

    Whoops, my bad. Two more guys killing the kaffir in the name of Allah. Nothing to see here, move along…

  38. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Going by the list of conflicts that result in at least 10,000 deaths a year, three of four involve Muslims…

    How many of those conflicts involve Christians on at least one side? By my count it’s 4 or 100%.

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: I hadn’t thought you the simple-minded pedant, but if you insist…

    How many of those conflicts feature at least one significant faction that specifically cites its Islamic obligations in its justification for war? Back to those top four:

    Mexican Drug War: Nope.

    Syrian Civil War: Yup.

    South Sudan Civil War: Yup.

    Iraqi Insurgency: Yup.

  40. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Mexican Drug War: No, but the people fighting it have a very strong Catholic identity.
    South Sudan Civil War: Not really, the divisions are ethnic rather than religious. That what are essentially mercenaries for the government of the North rationalize their violence with religion doesn’t make it meaningfully a religious war.
    Neither the Iraqi nor the Syrian civil wars began over religious reasons. The Iraqi civil war began with our dismantling of the government and civil institutions and the Syrian Civil War began in response to a tyrant rather than religious divisions. The region is deeply divided on both religious and ethnic identities, so once a civil war begins for whatever reason those divisions will be exacerbated. Trying to place that as a primary cause in an attempt to demonize a particular religion isn’t useful.

  41. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: I doubt the Mexicans involved in the drug wars would stop if the Pope told them to knock it off. The major faction in both Syria and Iraq right now is the Islamic State (or permutations of the name), trying to bring about the Caliphate.

    But you have a point on South Sudan. Sudan is a Muslim nation; I’d forgotten that South Sudan was where most of the non-Muslims live, and now Muslims are a minority in that nation. So let me revise my earlier numbers:

    10K or more deaths per year: 2/4 Muslim, 50%.
    1K or more deaths per year: 8/13 Muslim, 62%.
    100 or more deaths per years: 19/30 Muslim, 63%.

    I regret the error re: South Sudan, and appreciate you calling attention to it. Doesn’t really affect my conclusions, but I prefer to be more accurate when I can.

  42. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I doubt the Mexicans involved in the drug wars would stop if the Pope told them to knock it off.

    Do you really think that ISIL would stop if imams in Saudi Arabia told them to?
    On the other side the Shi’a in Iraq have changed their tone for the better in response to the US and probably more importantly the mullahs in Iran, but I’m not sure that helps your case.

  43. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: You brought up Catholicism, so I answered based on Catholicism. You wanna make any arguments that there are people in Mexico who are arguing that the drug wars are somehow God’s will, that they are acting in God’s name to promote the greater glory of God? And that they are highly influential in the drug cartels? Do the cartel leaders use religious titles like “bishop” and “cardinal?” Is there a “drug pope” who preaches to the masses?

    I might have to apologize for saying that I thought you were above petty pedantry. Because you’re clinging it pretty damned desperately.

  44. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    I brought up Catholicism, to make the point that the religion of the combatants by itself doesn’t mean much. Yes, the people fighting in the Mexican drug wars are almost all Catholic, but Catholicism isn’t why they are fighting. The same is true about the Muslims in many of the conflicts you list in an effort to show that Muslims are more violent than Christians or Jews or Hindus etc. The core of most of those conflicts is not religious any more than the core of the Mexican drug wars is religious.

  45. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: Then let’s take it a bit further. Quite a few of the conflicts feature Islam as a major motivator. Can you cite any current ones that involve Christianity as a major motivator?

    Here’s a hint: I’m thinking of one possible.