COLLIERVILLE, Tennessee—The shooter who killed one person and injured 15 at a Kroger supermarket in Collierville, Tennessee before turning the gun on himself has been identified by authorities as 29-year-old Uk Thang.
Thang was a third-party vendor who worked in the store, Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane said at a press conference on Friday morning. Lane declined to name Thang on live TV but shared his details with reporters after the cameras stopped rolling.
“I’m not going to give him notoriety in this platform,” Lane said. “We’re just not going to do it in this venue.” No motive has yet been given.
The shooting occurred at the Collierville store shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The number of people injured was revised up to 15 on Friday—10 employees and five customers.
Friends and relatives said that Olivia King, originally from San Antonio but a longtime resident of Collierville, was killed. She was a widow with three adult sons—one in the Navy, one in the Army, and one who had just completed his Ph.D. King had worked as a financial secretary at a nearby school. Her son Wes wrote on Facebook, “No one deserves this.” He said King had been shot in the chest.
Uk Thang’s cousin, Pang Cing, who lives in Utah, told The Daily Beast that Thang’s parents called him on Friday morning with the news, but he was still in the dark about what exactly had occurred. He said he hadn’t seen Thang for about 10 years, and didn’t realize his cousin was involved in yesterday’s shooting until his phone started ringing on Friday.
Bawi Thang, who is not related to Uk Thang, knew the suspect when he lived in Utah before moving to Tennessee but hasn’t heard from him since. He said he was “in shock” when he heard his former friend was behind yesterday’s mass shooting.
“He was always involved in church,” Thang, 26, told The Daily Beast. “I always looked up to him.”
Juanita Ford, 66, lives one floor above the suspect and was ordered to vacate her residence when police arrived at the complex yesterday to search Thang’s apartment.
“He stays to himself, he never speaks or anything,” Ford told The Daily Beast. “I passed him going to my car leaving for work and stuff like that. I only saw him in passing. He never talked to anybody.”
The apartment complex where Thang lived was a five-minute drive from the Kroger supermarket, off a four-lane road surrounded by well-trimmed trees, grass, and white picket fences.
Several neighbors told The Daily Beast they didn’t know Thang, only that they’d seen him occasionally come and go. Xayasack Saysoembath said he came home from work on Thursday evening to see the complex swarming with police and SWAT teams.
“I was getting ready to go to Kroger to do some shopping to bring back some dinner for the kids,” he said. “So then I saw the message and came straight and made sure the kids got home OK off the bus.”
His children attend Collierville High School, which went into lockdown during the shooting. Saysoembath, who is originally from Laos and lived in Thailand for almost two decades before moving to the U.S., said he feels less safe than when he first moved to Collierville.
“In 19 years living there, we never felt any kind of violence or threat,” he said. “But coming back to America, it’s almost like reverse culture.”
Memphis resident Tawana French hadn’t yet set foot inside the market when she realized something was very wrong.
“I was getting ready to enter the store, and at the door I was rushed by a lady with her five kids,” French, 56, told The Daily Beast. “She was pushing them, dragging them, screaming at them, ‘Run! Run! Run!’ I didn’t know what was going on.”A split-second later, French heard gunfire, she said.
“I turned around and ran but before I could get to my car, which was maybe four cars down in the lot, I heard a lady scream, ‘Somebody get help, I think she’s been hit!’” French recalled. “And at that point, while I was outside and almost to my car, I heard gunfire again.”
In a statement issued Friday, Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard said the company was “horrified and heartbroken over the senseless violence that occurred yesterday... resulting in the death of one customer as well as the assailant and injuries to several other individuals, including 10 of our associates and five customers.”
Howard confirmed that the store will be closed while police complete their investigation, but that Kroger is “continuing to provide our associates with pay as well as support through our Helping Hands fund. We’ve also initiated counseling services for our associates.”