Man indicted in Maryland machine shop killings admitted pulling trigger, investigators say

The man indicted on charges of opening fire inside a Western Maryland machine shop last month, killing three co-workers, told a sheriff’s deputy he pulled the trigger.

Joe Louis Esquivel, 23, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, was indicted on 34 counts in connection with the June 9 shooting at Columbia Machine, in the rural community of Smithsburg. He allegedly worked until he left the building to retrieve a weapon, went back inside and fired on employees near a breakroom.

Court records show Esquivel was indicted June 29 on charges including first- and second-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and several gun-related charges.

Charging documents filed after Esquivel was initially arrested and charged state Esquivel shot and killed three co-workers on the machine shop floor.

Another employee was in a break room looking at his phone when he was shot before running outside to a field, where he identified Esquivel as the person who shot him. That employee survived the shooting.

Investigators say Esquivel drove away. A witness described seeing Esquivel being stopped by Maryland State Police at a traffic circle. After an exchange of gunfire, a state trooper and Esquivel were both injured.

According to the charging documents, while Esquivel was being taken in an ambulance for treatment, he told a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy that he’d pulled the trigger: “The people I shot were pedophiles,” Esquivel told the deputy, without elaborating further.

Court records and proceedings have made no other reference to the claim, and there’s no indication that it’s true.

Investigators and prosecutors have not disclosed possible motives for the shooting. Prosecutors and the public defender’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from WTOP.

Esquivel is scheduled to make his first court appearance since his indictment on Aug. 18. He is being held without bond.

Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore identified those killed in the shooting as Mark Alan Frey, 50, of Hagerstown, Maryland; Charles Edward Minnick Jr., 31, of Smithsburg, Maryland; and Joshua Robert Wallace, 30, of Hagerstown.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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