People on Dorchester Drive in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota were startled by an engine roar down the street.
The sound was coming from a three-quarter-ton truck, armored with a push bumper on the front – a cage-like device you commonly see on police cars, more colloquially called a “grille guard” or “rammer.” The latter term is perhaps the most appropriate for what was about to happen.
Bystanders said the truck sounded “maxed out” and “pedal to the floor.” One witness said it looked like it was booking 80 miles per hour down Dorchester… straight toward a mail truck.
It slammed the mail truck from behind. The postal worker inside was flung to the pavement.
The rammer was one Alan Lynn Birt, a 56-year-old man from the Iron Range town of Marble. By the time police showed up, according to a complaint, he had left his truck and was “yelling and ranting in the field.” He started to become “uncooperative” after officers approached. It took four men and a taser to take him into custody.
In a hospital, he admitted he’d done the whole thing on purpose. He had been upset with the United States Postal Service, had known one of its employees would be in that truck, and had meant to ram it. He was asked if he remembered anything from the incident.
“Yeah,” he allegedly said. “I killed that fucking useless mail carrier.”
Officers told him he actually hadn’t – though clearly not for lack of trying. The mail carrier ejected from the truck was a 55-year-old unnamed woman. She had been taken to the hospital with “life-threatening” injuries, including a fractured skull and four broken ribs.
So no, they told Birt, he hadn’t killed her. To which he allegedly replied:
“Well, someone should.”
The incident may seem extreme, but data indicates that the Postal Service may be an incredibly dangerous place to work. A recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration report showed that its employees reported more “severe injuries” than any other employer between 2015 and 2017. (A “severe” injury, in this case, means the worker ends up hospitalized for at least one night, or loses a limb or an eye.)
During that time period, the Postal Service reported nearly 400 severe injuries. The runner-up was Walmart, with just 155. That’s because the Postal Service has a huge fleet of employees – 640,000 of them. But if you count injuries per every 100,000 workers, it still makes the top four, just behind Waste Management, JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, and Tyson Foods.
That said, the most common threats are heat exhaustion, icy surfaces, and dogs – not disgruntled men with trucks.
Birt was charged with assault in the first degree. If he’s convicted, he could serve up to 20 years, and/or pay a $30,000 fine.