A gunman who killed one person and wounded 14 others in a Tennessee grocery store did not appear to target anyone specifically as he rampaged through the building on a sunny Thursday afternoon, police said. The entire shooting was over within minutes as first responders swarmed the scene.
On Friday, some of the wounded were still in critical condition and fighting for their lives, Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane said at a morning news conference.
Still, the outcome could have been worse, he said. The shooter died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound within a couple of minutes of police arriving, and they arrived almost immediately at the Kroger in the wealthy suburb outside of Memphis.
The gunman acted alone and was a third-party vendor to the store who was on site on a daily basis, Lane said. He was later identified by Major David Townsend as UK Thang. Police searched his home Thursday and removed electronic devices, Lane said.
“We all want to know the why,” Lane said of the shooter’s motive. “But today, less than 24 hours, we’re not ready to tell you that.”
The victims included 10 employees and five customers.
Lane identified the woman who was killed as Olivia King. Friends told The Commercial Appeal she was a widowed mother of three.
On social media, one of King’s sons, Wes King, posted about his mother’s death. He wrote that he had spoken to the trauma surgeon and learned his mother was shot in the chest.
“They tried to save her at the hospital to no avail,” he wrote. “I apologize for the graphic details, but this type of crime needs to stop being glossed over and sanitized. No one deserves this.”
Kroger worker Brignetta Dickerson told WREG-TV she was working a cash register when she heard what at first she thought were balloons popping.
“And, here he comes right behind us and started shooting,” Dickerson said. “And, he kept on shooting, shooting, shooting. He shot one of my co-workers in the head and shot one of my customers in the stomach.”
Lane said police received a call around 1:30 p.m. about the shooting and arrived almost immediately, finding multiple people with gunshot wounds upon entering the building.
He said a police SWAT team and other officers went aisle to aisle plucking panicked people from hiding and taking them out safely.
“We found people hiding in freezers, in locked offices. They were doing what they had been trained to do: run, hide, fight,” the chief said.
Dickerson, the employee, said her co-worker, who is in his 20s, was shot in the head but able to ask her to notify his mother.
“I left her a voicemail that he was alert and talking,” Dickerson said, unable to immediately reach her.
Earlier this year, Tennessee became the latest state to allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without first clearing a state-level background check and training. The measure was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee over objections from some law-enforcement groups and gun-control advocates concerned the measure would possibly lead to more gun violence.
The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, Ohio, issued a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by the shooting and was cooperating with law enforcement. The company in 2019 asked its customers not to openly carry guns while visiting its stores. A Kroger spokesperson said the Collierville store will be closed until further notice.