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CAMBRIDGE — Kermit Hooks Jr. drove with a singular purpose Thursday morning to the Cambridge office where he once worked, officials said.

The 70-year-old Framingham man had been fired from his job months earlier but returned Thursday to Senior Whole Health with a 12-gauge shotgun and waited in his car for his ex-supervisor to report to work, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said.

Hooks’s target arrived at the Charles Street office around 7:46 a.m. with a briefcase in hand. It saved his life.

“When that employee came in, [Hooks] got out of his car and began firing in the direction of that current employee,” Ryan said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “The current employee used the briefcase he was carrying as a shield for his face and head.”

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Hooks’s target escaped the confrontation with non-life-threatening injuries to his face from shrapnel that went airborne during the shooting, Ryan said. Hooks climbed back into his car and shot himself to death, she said.

Authorities did not release the name of the 58-year-old man targeted by Hooks, but the man’s family confirmed his name is Charles Obeid, of Norwood. Obeid is listed on LinkedIn as a director of systems development at Senior Whole Health.

Obeid’s 20-year-old daughter, Rachel, said late Thursday that her father was sleeping.

“He’s fine now,” she said, adding that he had never mentioned Hooks before. “I’m just relieved.”

Ryan said Obeid had played a role in the decision to fire Hooks but could not provide further details about the firing. Hooks did not hold a license to carry a firearm in Massachusetts, a Ryan spokeswoman said.

Hooks’s first wife, Bernadette Hooks, of Philadelphia, was stunned to hear what happened.

“I just can’t imagine him doing something like this,” she said. “I know sometimes he could be mean, but nothing of this magnitude — I can’t imagine what could have happened.”

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Bernadette Hooks said her ex-husband was a Marine Corps veteran who was raised in Philadelphia by a schoolteacher and social worker who prized education.

She said Hooks was a self-taught computer programmer who moved to Massachusetts to start what she thought was a telemarketing business. She said she thought Hooks was still in that line of work. Though they had talked and texted recently, she had no idea he had lost his job, she said.

Ryan said that until Thursday, Hooks had no contact with his former employer. Ryan credited Obeid for shielding himself and the actions of other workers for preventing “an even greater tragedy.”

“It’s an incredibly fortunate episode, given the nature of the weapon, and the fairly short distance between the two of them,” Ryan said.

Witnesses said they heard a volley of gunfire, a brief pause, then another one or two shots.

Emma Brandstater and her sister said they saw Hooks standing in the parking lot as he fired the shotgun.

“Every time he pulled the trigger, he is aiming like up in the air, up in the sky,” Brandstater said. “I said to my sister, ‘Don’t peek at the window. He might see our eyes.’ ”

The siblings said another man in the lot called 911, shaking as he said, “There’s a guy firing some shots.”

Some of the shots went awry, Ryan said, and struck buildings surrounding the parking lot. The building housing Senior Whole Health and another office complex were hit, a Cambridge police spokesman said in an e-mail.

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Mike Ozog, who lives nearby, said he and his girlfriend heard a blast. About 10 minutes later, he said, his girlfriend heard a person yelling outside, “He’s got a shotgun!”

Ozog said he heard someone say, “I think he’s in the loading dock.”

Officers with weapons drawn ran down Charles Street toward Third Street, he said.

Senior Whole Health posted a statement online Thursday saying an employee had been a victim of workplace violence.

One employee of the company said people were surprised he carried out the attack.

“He was a good person,” the worker said. “It’s a shocker.”

Another worker said Hooks had problems before he was fired several months ago.

“He always had a vendetta,” the worker said. “He was not right.”

Kermit Hooks Jr., pictured about 20 years ago.
Kermit Hooks Jr., pictured about 20 years ago. Handout

Bernadette Hooks said she and Kermit Hooks married in 1970 in Philadelphia. He loved to debate religion and politics with friends, but he had an ego and sometimes had a mean streak, she said. Still, he was never combustible, she said.

“It wasn’t anger. He could be mean, but it wasn’t anger,” Bernadette Hooks said.

Their daughter, Kiera, said her parents divorced when she was 2 but said her father was in her life until she was a teenager.

“When you get to become a teenager, you get to be a little more mouthy, and he didn’t like that,” she said.

“If it wasn’t his way, it was the highway,” Kiera added. “Once he can’t control you, it’s kind of like, he’s out.”

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One bright spot in Hooks’s life was his 20-year-old grandson, Bernadette Hooks said. As a 12-year-old, the grandson spent a summer in Massachusetts with Hooks, who insisted the child take boxing classes.

The boy hated it but stuck with it — and is now a Golden Gloves champion on the cusp of his first professional fight.

On Monday, Bernadette Hooks said her ex-husband sent her a text about their grandson.

“For once I did a good thing,” he wrote. “I’m very happy about his success.”


John R. Ellement, Jeremiah Manion, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Mina Corpuz and J.D. Capelouto contributed to this report.