Authorities said a gunman whom they described as a disaffected Walmart employee shot dead two of his colleagues and injured a police officer before he was shot and arrested at a Walmart store in northern Mississippi.
Desoto County Attorney General John Champion said that 39-year-old Martís Tarel Abram shot a Southhaven police officer, who was protected by a bulletproof vest, and was lightly injured. Southaven Police Chief McConn Moore said that another Southaven officer shot Abram, who was undergoing an operation at a hospital in neighboring Memphis, Tennessee.
Moore said the dead were Walmart employees. Employees said the first was fired in the parking lot, and the second was fired inside the store.
Southhaven Mayor Darren Musilwait described the suspect as a disaffected worker with a complaint against his employer. Abram, a Southhaven resident, has been suspended from the store in recent days after showing a knife to his co-worker. A police report was filed, but Champion said Abram did not appear to have threatened his co-worker and the criminal charges were not pursued.
“It wasn’t just an accident,” said Travis Jones, a night storage worker who was working when he heard gunshots. “He knew what he was doing when he got there.”
Jones said he saw the body of store manager Anthony Brown on the floor while it was running out of store. He said, “It was an ugly sight.” Desoto County coroner Joshua Benders said 40-year-old Brown, an olive branch resident, succumbed to his wounds.
Another murdered worker, Nicholas Gallis, said was his 38-year-old brother, Brandon Gallis, from Hernando. Jones described Brandon Gallis as his best friend and “the all-around good guy,” saying he is the father of several children.
The shooting at around 6:30 a.m. triggered a massive police response to the shopping complex, at a crowded exit off Highway 55 in Southaven, a suburb of 55,000 people.
“Our police really showed their courage today,” Muselwight said.
Noting that Southaven officers have recently received active training in shooting, “had it not been for their efforts, there would have been more lives.”
Carlos Odom, 35, had just made his regular visit to his cousin, who works for Walmart, and said he was leaving when he heard over ten shots.
“I only heard gunshots,” said Odom. Prisoners. Prisoners. Prisoners. Prisoners.
“When policemen collide at Walmart, you hear more gunshots,” Odom said. “Then it stops.”
Phil Cox, 70, said he just bought some nasal spray and was in the parking lot when he thought he heard a gunshot, then saw a man who might have been a shooter running to the store. He got on his truck to leave when the police began to arrive.
“It was going crazy at that point,” Cox said, expressing sympathy for the staff. “It’s hard to believe what happened here, but it seems to be happening everywhere.”
Champion said police found multiple weapons and a cart and searched Abram’s apartment. He said that Abram legally purchased weapons, although he did not describe them, and said that Abram does not have a previous criminal record. He said investigators are also reviewing the videos.
Investigators also believe that Abram set the store on fire. Champion said the charges could be lifted or more fees added after the investigation ends.
“I feel very confident that we will have a case that can be prosecuted,” Champion said.
No one answered the door in an address listed for Abram this afternoon. Some neighbors in the apartment complex about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the location of the shooting said they did not know him.
Moore said about 60 employees were on the job at the time. They were taken to the parking lot at the Chili’s restaurant next door and were questioned by officers, and they remained there for hours. Some hugged, while others were put into an ambulance. Others gathered in a circle to pray. Finally, the authorities brought the employees back to the store in the afternoon, spoke to them, and released them to go home. The store remained closed, even as businesses operated as usual elsewhere in the heavy-traffic suburban sector.
“The entire Walmart family is mourning the loss of two important members of our team,” Greg Foran, President and CEO of Walmart, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We personally feel tragedies like this, and our hearts break for the families of our partners and the injured officer.”
Furan said the company is satisfied with the arrest of the suspect and appreciates the prompt response from the authorities and their staff.
“We will continue to focus on assisting law enforcement in their investigations and supporting our partners,” he added.