Police search for motive in deadly Wal-Mart shooting

2015-05-27 12:36
Police investigate the scene of a shooting at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store. (Matt Henson, AP)

Police investigate the scene of a shooting at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store. (Matt Henson, AP)

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Police in Grand Forks, North Dakota, are trying to find out what prompted a US airman to walk into a Wal-Mart Supercentre and kill one worker, injure another and then fatally shoot himself.

"Right now, there are likely more questions than answers in many respects," Lieutenant Derik Zimmel said.

Grand Forks police said the shooting a few minutes after 01:00 on Tuesday may have been random, with no link yet found between Marcell Willis, aged 21, and either the store or the employees. Willis was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, about 19km west of the city.

"There's no apparent motive that jumps out at this time," Zimmel said.

Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown said in a statement that the shooting shook the northeastern North Dakota city of about 55 000 people.

"It is not normal for us in Grand Forks," the mayor's statement said.

Authorities didn't immediately identify the two workers who were shot or a third worker they say Willis shot at but missed. The injured person was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks with a gunshot wound that was not believed to be life-threatening, Zimmel said. An Altru spokesperson said the person was in satisfactory condition on Tuesday afternoon.

People screaming

Willis was given medical treatment at the scene and taken to Altru, where he was pronounced dead, Zimmel said.

Willis was the only person with a gun and no police officers fired a weapon, according to Zimmel. A handgun was recovered near Willis' body, Zimmel said.

Zimmel said police believe the airman fired only three shots before shooting himself. Police did not identify the type of handgun or its calibre.

Andy Legg, who was in the store at the time of the shooting, told WDAZ-TV he heard "popping sounds" shortly before authorities herded him and other customers to a safe section of the store.

"I saw people running. At that time, we heard people screaming, one yelling for help," he said.

Sean Willis of Nashville, Tennessee, said only that his son had been in the military for about three years and was originally from Springfield, Tennessee.

Sergeant David Dobrydney, a base spokesperson, said he couldn't yet release any information about Willis due to Air Force regulations.

Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said in a statement that there were about 30 employees and 20 customers in the store at the time of the shooting.

The company said it was "deeply saddened" by the attack.

About 1 500 airmen are assigned to the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the military said.

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