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Mississippi: Two killed after former employee opens fire in Walmart

Mississippi: Two killed after former employee opens fire in Walmart
July 31, 2019

MISSISSIPPI (US) - A disgruntled former employee walked into a Walmart in Mississippi on Tuesday and opened fire on supervisors, killing two people in an early-morning attack that ended in a shootout in the store’s parking lot, officials said.

The gunman and a police officer were also wounded, according to the authorities.

The police responded around 6:30 am to reports of a gunman at a Walmart in Southaven, Miss., on the border with Tennessee.

Mayor Darren Musselwhite of Southaven said that a “disgruntled” employee set off chaos at the store, lighting a fire inside and taking aim at a supervisor. The gunman went out a side door chasing a store manager, who was killed in a parking lot, Mr. Musselwhite said.

The authorities responded to the Walmart within three minutes of the first 911 call and found the gunman in the parking lot, Chief Macon Moore of the Southaven Police Department said at a news conference.

A police officer was shot in the back during a confrontation with the gunman and was recovering at a hospital, according to city officials. “He was saved by his vest,” the chief said.

The gunman, identified by prosecutors as Martez Tarrell Abram, 39, of Southaven, was shot twice by the police and hospitalized on Tuesday. He is facing two charges of murder, John Champion, the district attorney for Mississippi’s 17th Circuit Court District, said at a news conference. More charges may be added, he said.

A Walmart representative declined to share details of Mr. Abram’s employment, but Mr. Champion said he had been fired shortly before the shooting.

In the days before Mr. Abrams was terminated, another Walmart employee had reported him to the police, Mr. Champion said.

“He was in the store and had a knife in his belt and showed it to an employee, and the employee was concerned and called the Police Department and wished to make a report,” Mr. Champion said. “To our knowledge he did not threaten anybody with it.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Walmart said that the company was “heartbroken by the loss of two valued members of our team.”

“We feel tragedies like this personally, and our hearts go out to the families of our two associates and the officer who was injured,” the statement said.

WMC Action News 5, a local news outlet, reported that the DeSoto County Coroner’s office had identified the two people who were killed as Anthony Brown, 40, of Olive Branch; and Brandon Gales, 38, of Hernando.

“These people were doing the same thing that you and I do every day, showing up for work in an attempt to provide for their families, and then became victims of a senseless violent act,” Chief Moore said of the victims.

The shooting shut down the Walmart in Southaven, a city of about 55,000 in northern Mississippi, about 13 miles from Memphis. Police cars and crime scene tape blocked off access to the store, where the authorities said they had also responded to reports of a fire and a suspicious package.

“It’s still very fluid,” Chief Moore said late Tuesday morning.

The chief, who did not take questions at the news conference, said that police officers had undergone active shooter training this month. That training, he said, “saved lives today.”

After the shooting, Walmart employees, some still in their uniforms, gathered in a circle outside the store and held hands in prayer, according to a local reporter at the scene.

Mayor Musselwhite said there was “a lot of sadness in the city” after the shooting, which he called a “sign of the times.” On Sunday, three people, including two children, were killed in a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif.

“I personally knew the store manager, so I’ll admit it’s pretty tough on me,” he said. “It’s a nightmare. It is the kind of event that everyone dreads.”