An Oklahoma man apparently uttered Arabic words during an attack in which he allegedly severed a co-worker’s head, and had “some sort of infatuation with beheadings,” but the killing appeared to have more to do with the man’s suspension from his job than his recent conversion to Islam, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Alton Nolen, 30, could face the death penalty after being charged with first-degree murder in the attack Thursday that authorities say appears to have been an act of revenge for a co-worker’s complaint that got him suspended.

AltonNolen

Alton Nolen

The FBI also is investigating the attack, given Nolen’s interest in beheadings and a recent surge in Middle East violence.

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Mashburn said the human resources department at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore had suspended Nolen earlier Thursday after another co-worker, Traci Johnson, had complained she had had an altercation with Nolen “about him not liking white people.”

“It had more to do with race rather than trying to convert people,” Mashburn said. He said there was a “back and forth with Ms. Johnson and that led her to make a complaint to the HR department.”

Mashburn said that after being suspended, Nolen retrieved a knife at home and “returned to get revenge.” He had the knife in his shoe when he returned to the plant, according to a police affidavit.

Nolen walked into the plant’s administrative office in suburban Oklahoma City and came across Colleen Hufford, 54. According to the prosecutor, Nolen attacked Hufford from behind, severing her head, before turning his attention to Johnson, 43. Nolen “cut her across the throat and left side of her face,” and later told police he was attempting to behead her as well, the affidavit said. Johnson survived.

The company’s chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff’s deputy in Oklahoma City, leveled a rifle at Nolen and fired, striking him once and stopping the attack.

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Oklahoma prison records show Nolen was released from prison in March 2013 after serving two years of a six-year sentence on charges that included assaulting a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Nolen received no misconduct reports during his incarceration at five separate facilities, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said. Nolen completed his probation in March of this year.

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