A 49-year-old man has died following a fight at General Motors’ Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday in a news release.
Sheriff’s Communications Officer Steve Huber identified the victim as Gregory Lanier Robertson of Pontiac. Robertson had worked at the plant for about seven months. A 48-year-old male colleague was in custody at the Oakland County Jail.
Later Thursday afternoon, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office completed the autopsy report. It lists Robertson’s death as a homicide with the cause as “multiple blunt force injuries,” Cas Miarka, an administrator at the medical examiner’s office, told the Free Press.
The sheriff’s office confirmed that both men in the fight worked for a cleaning service hired by GM, but Huber told the Free Press that his office is not releasing the name of that cleaning company. GM hires suppliers to do cleaning as well as some maintenance and distribution of parts for the assembly line.
The plant was closed Thursday for the investigation, but normal production will resume Friday morning, and employees should report at regular times unless otherwise notified by their managers, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.
“We will begin the shift with a discussion about the recent incident at the facility and the support services available to employees,” Flores said in a statement.
Death at the scene
Huber said earlier Thursday that “it was an altercation and we have investigators on the scene. It happened at 1:37 in the morning and there was no risk to the public.”
Huber later described what happened in a press release:
Deputies arrived to find Robertson “unconscious and bleeding.” CPR was performed, but deputies were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The suspect was found in a dock area not far from Robertson’s body. “The item used in the homicide was recovered,” Huber said in the release. “The incident and possible motive remain under investigation.”
In a statement released later Thursday, Flores said GM was working with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to investigate “an altercation between two employees of a third-party service provider at Orion Assembly early Thursday morning. The incident resulted in the death of one of Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s family.”
Huber said investigators will present the case to prosecutors Friday for possible murder charges.
Other fatal factory battles
GM has security at all its factories, including Orion Assembly where about 1,200 people work. During the non-production shifts, there are usually only a handful of employees there such as security personnel and cleaning crews. Flores was not sure if there were metal detectors at the facility’s entrances or not.
There have been fatal incidents at auto plants in the past in Michigan.
In 2017 at Ford Motor Co. Woodhaven Stamping Plant, Jacoby Hennings, a temporary part-time employee, was involved in a dispute before shooting himself, leading to the plant’s evacuation and shutdown. Hennings, then 21, was from Harper Woods.
In 1996, the media reported that Gerald Michael Atkins, then 29, was arrested after dressing “like Rambo” and using an AK-47 to shoot himself into a Ford plant in Wixom. One leader was killed and three others were wounded.
GM’s Flores said he doesn’t recall a fatal killing at a GM plant until now. According to GM’s 2021 sustainability report, the automaker had two work-related deaths at its facilities, up from one death in 2020.
Orion’s production future
GM builds the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV, an SUV version of the all-electric car, at Orion in one daily shift that starts around 6 a.m. and runs until 2:30 p.m., Flores said.
GM had just restarted production of the Bolt and Bolt EUV in April after months of shutdown. GM idled the plant late last year so GM could focus on fixing defective batteries as part of a global recall of 2017-22 model year Bolts. Around 140,000 vehicles are affected by the recall because they can catch fire. There were more than a dozen fires, but no one was injured.
When GM restarted the plant in April, Chevrolet executives said that as production ramped up, the electric cars would achieve record sales this year, topping 24,000 bolts. Through June, GM has sold 7,303 Bolts. In the same period last year, GM had sold 20,288 up to and including June.
In January, GM announced it would invest $7 billion in Michigan factories, including $4 billion to upgrade Orion to begin building the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. pick up.
More:GM CFO says the supply plan will keep car production going even in a downturn
More:GM calls $1,500 OnStar plan optional — but new car buyers are forced into it
Contact Jamie L. LaReau at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our auto’s newsletter. Become a subscriber.