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COLLIERVILLE, Tennessee — Police said Friday that the gunman was involved in a shooting at… a Kroger supermarket who killed one and wounded 14 others was an outside supplier for Kroger who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
They also identified the woman who died in the shooting as Olivia King.
Friends told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network, which King was a longtime resident of the area.
“She was just sweet,” said David Fraser, an old friend of King’s.
“Friendly, polite, considerate,” added friend Maureen Fraser, who stood next to him on the curb at the closed Kroger supermarket on Thursday.
The Frasers said they’d known King for years. She was from San Antonio and was a widow with three sons: one in the Navy, one in the Air Force, and one who had just completed a PhD, they said.
They said she attended Catholic Mass almost every day and had previously worked as a financial secretary at a local school.
Police Chief Dale Lane said on Friday that officials are “getting a clearer picture of what happened” but did not confirm the gunman’s motive. The suspect, who was found dead at the back of the store, was identified as Uk Thang, 29.
Of the 15 people who were shot, 10 were Kroger employees and five customers, Lane said.
“Fortunately, our prayers were answered: we didn’t lose anyone overnight,” Lane said. “There are still people fighting, so keep praying for them too.”
On Friday, about 100 residents gathered in the front yard of Collierville Town Hall to pray and mourn. Pastors, a rabbi, the mayor of Collierville, and the city’s council of aldermen spoke from the entrance under the letters “Collierville.”
As the prayer ended, two women shopping at the Kroger at the time of the shooting took up the microphone to express their gratitude for the city’s support. The two women, Sara Wiles and Hollie Skaggs, were strangers before the shooting but have become close friends since the tragedy.
“It’s been a rough few hours,” Skaggs told the crowd between tears. “I didn’t know before, but now I do. I told (Wiles) when we came out that she’s my guardian angel. I’m just grateful for her. We ran, we hid, we heard everything.”
The shooter was acting alone and working as an outside supplier for Kroger, Lane said. Lane declined to name the shooter at a media briefing, saying he “didn’t want to publicize him.” But police later confirmed the shooter’s identity. Kroger also confirmed that the shooter was an outside supplier.
“In the hours since the shooting, we learn of truly heroic acts in which employees, customers and first responders selflessly helped to protect and rescue others,” Kroger said in a statement Friday. “We will be forever grateful to the first responders who responded so bravely to protect our employees and customers.”
The store will remain closed during the police investigation, although workers will still be paid, Kroger said.
Lane said the shooter had previous “minor charges,” Lane said, but did not specify.
The shooting began at 1:30 p.m. CDT Thursday at the Kroger in Collierville, about 31 miles east of Memphis. Police said they were immediately on the scene, and officers began to break into the store to respond to what Lane called “the most horrific event in Collierville’s history.”
Local and federal law enforcement agencies responded; dozens of patrol cars, two vehicles of tactical units and ambulances in neighboring provinces were on the scene at 2 p.m.
“Our boys didn’t hesitate for a moment,” said Collierville fire chief Buddy Billings.
He added: “I’ve been in the fire service for 44 years… I’ve never been so proud of a group of people in my life, in my entire career.”
Workers hid in freezers and crouched in locked offices. A store employee was rescued from the roof, Lane said.
Witnesses, both shoppers and employees, who trickled out of the Kroger on Thursday described hearing what they believe were balloons popping before the reality of the situation became apparent. Police escorted a crowd of about 40 people to the center of the parking lot to take statements. Outside the crime scene tape, relatives of shoppers and employees waited to find their loved ones.
Brignetta Dickerson, an employee for more than three years, led a group of employees and customers to safety by weaving through the store, with the gunman not far behind her group.
“I’ve been through everything,” she said Thursday afternoon. “This here tasted the cake.”
In their own words: Victims describe confusion and then a desperate attempt to flee the store
Kroger released a statement Thursday expressing his sadness for the affected employees and customers, as well as gratitude for the first responders.
Kroger, which has nearly 2,800 stores nationwide, has been trying in recent years to minimize potential gun violence in its stores. In 2019, the chain announced that it would ban open carrying firearms in its stores. In terms of turnover, it is the largest supermarket chain in the country.
This event marks the second mass shooting in a year at any of the company’s stores. The end of March, a gunman opened fire at King Sooper’s store in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people. King Sooper’s is part of the Kroger company.
Contributors: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY.
Micaela Watts is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal, she can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Kroger shooting in Collierville: Gunman ID’d; Olivia King named victim
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