Potential workplace shootings are a terror in themselves. When a chemical-weapons depot is added into the mix, the prospect of a violent confrontation becomes even scarier.

That was the situation law-enforcement officials believed they faced Wednesday when they shot and injured 44-year-old David Miller of Pendleton. This case, like so many others, is a double tragedy. Miller himself was in a great deal of psychological and physical pain. He had lost his depot-construction job and suffered a back injury. The father of two children, he was afraid of losing his home.

Now, he is hospitalized, facing serious charges, and his family has even greater problems then it did just a few days ago.

It's impossible to explain what makes a person snap. It's difficult to draw lessons from what appears to be an irrational act. And no one knows for sure what Miller intended to do on Wednesday as he loaded weapons and ammunition into his pickup. But it is clear that law-enforcement officials reacted swiftly and competently to the perceived threat to the depot. They sealed off depot grounds and stopped Miller before he made it out of his driveway.

Miller never would have gotten close to chemical substances even if he had reached the depot property. But authorities fear he might have harmed co-workers - and we all have seen too many examples of workplace violence in the past few years. Threats cannot be taken lightly. And if those threats involve a chemical-weapons facility, law-enforcement agencies - from the FBI to the local police - are obligated to respond with force when necessary.

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