COLLIERVILLE, Tennessee—At least one person was killed and another 12 injured when an active shooter opened fire in a supermarket on the outskirts of Memphis on Thursday afternoon, police said.
Local station Fox 13 reported that the shooter was a disgruntled worker, though whether his employer was Kroger or one of the store’s vendors was unclear.
Friends and relatives identified the victim as Olivia King, originally from San Antonio but a longtime resident of Collierville. 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. She had worked as a financial secretary at a nearby school.
Her son Wes wrote on Facebook, “No one deserves this.” He said she was shot in the chest.
Maureen Fraser, a member of Collierville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and a friend of King’s, described her as “Kind, polite, thoughtful.”
The incident unfolded at the Collierville store just after 1:30 p.m., Collierville Chief Dale Lane said in a press briefing. The lone shooter later died from a self-inflicted wound, Lane said, taking the death toll to two.
“It’s horrific, I’ve been involved in this for 34 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said at a news conference, adding that it “breaks my heart to have to stand before you here today.”
Nine of the injured were taken to Regional One Health Medical Center in Memphis, with four in critical condition, a spokesperson said, declining to elaborate further. Three gunshot victims were being taken into surgery at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, a hospital source told The Daily Beast. One was shot in the abdomen, another was shot in the pelvis, and a third was shot in the ankle, according to the source, who is not authorized to speak to the media.
Witnesses reported hearing more than a dozen shots, according to local reports. Some of the store’s employees managed to flee when bullets began flying. More than 40 of them were inside the store when the gunfire started, according to police. Lane said SWAT teams later found people hiding in the store’s freezers and in locked offices. One even made his way to the roof, where he waited for police with his hands up.
Memphis resident Tawana French was simply trying to get her shopping done when the shooting started.
“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.
“And then another person came out of the store in that same moment, and a split second later I heard gunfire. 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!’ And at that point, while I was outside and almost to my car, I heard gunfire again.
“The first time, I heard maybe like, four shots. Pow, pow, pow, pow. The second time, it was more than that. It sounded like a flurry of shots.
“Police cars were showing up as I was leaving, the police were everywhere. I could see them on the corners, I could see them at the backside of the store. In that tiny little instant, I saw at least 10, 12 cars.”
Lane said that, as SWAT teams entered the store, they found multiple people shot. Officers went “aisle to aisle, room to room” bringing out terrified employees who were hiding and helping the wounded.
A Kroger employee told reporters at the scene that she was working at the register when she heard what she instantly knew were gunshots.
“Whoever was in front of me, I just grabbed them and just took off,” Bridgette Dickerson said. She said they ran into a break room but then feared the shooter might find them there, so they moved to an outdoor area at the back of the store where an incinerator is kept.
But she heard the shooter approach the back of the store and start firing again. He shot “one of my co-workers in the head and then he shot a customer in the stomach and my other co-worker got a little cut above his eye because of the asphalt,” the woman said.
“All I heard was tap, tap, tap and one little bullet was on the ground [next to me], that’s all I saw, and then all of a sudden that’s when the police came,” she said.
The shooter was carrying a military-style rifle and had his face partially covered, she said.
The suspect’s vehicle was parked in the store’s parking lot but Lane said authorities were waiting for some “additional equipment” so they could safely search both the car and the suspect.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) confirmed to The Daily Beast that it has sent agents to the scene.
In an email, a Kroger spokesperson said, “The entire Kroger family offers our thoughts, prayers and support to the individuals and families of the victims during this difficult time. We are cooperating with local law enforcement, who have secured the store and parking lot. The store will remain closed while the police investigation continues, and we have initiated counseling services for our associates.”
By around 5 p.m. local time, the shopping center containing the Kroger had been fully taped off, and Memphis Police bomb unit officers were unloading equipment at the scene.