A Woman And Her 1-Year-Old Grandson Were Fatally Shot While Shopping Inside A Grocery Store
Authorities believe the shooter didn't have any previous connection to the woman and child.
A man who gunned down a 69-year-old woman and her 1-year-old grandson inside a Florida supermarket had posted about wanting to kill people and children on social media, the local sheriff said.
The man was never reported to law enforcement, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. A spokesperson for Facebook told BuzzFeed News on Saturday that the company has not found any reports made about the suspect and that his accounts have since been removed.
Speaking to reporters during a briefing Friday, Bradshaw expressed anger over the deadly shooting inside the Publix in Royal Palm Beach, saying that had someone spoken up about the man's comments on Facebook, two people might still be alive.
"He has said, 'I want to kill people and children,'" Bradshaw said. "He’s got friends — obviously they saw that. His ex-wife said he’s been acting strange. He thinks he's being followed; he's paranoid. Do you think a damn soul told us about that? No."
On Thursday morning, the man, identified as 55-year-old Timothy J. Wall, fatally shot the grandmother and the toddler in the produce section of the store before killing himself, officials said. All three were pronounced dead at the scene. The victims' names have not been released because of a crime victims' rights law, the sheriff's office said.
Bradshaw said Friday that investigators still have not found any previous connection between Wall and the victims and that authorities believe, at this time, that his first interaction with the woman and child was inside the grocery store.
Maj. Talal Masri, with the sheriff's office, said surveillance video showed Wall entering the store at about 11:29 a.m., more than 20 minutes after the victims arrived. Shortly after the victims entered the produce section, Wall appeared, "and you can see he's looking towards the victim." He approached the grandmother a few minutes later, pulled out his gun, and fired one round at the child, Masri said.
The woman then wrestled with the shooter as his gun jammed. In the struggle, she fell to the ground, at which point he shot her, Masri said. The shooter then killed himself.
Masri said investigators have also recovered footage showing that Wall entered a Walgreens earlier on Thursday. He also entered the same Publix about two and a half hours before the shooting and bought something. At that time, Masri said, a uniformed deputy was also in the store, making a purchase.
Sheriff's officials did not provide any additional information about the shooter's comments on social media.
Bradshaw argued that if someone had alerted police to Wall's comments, they might have been able to take away his gun under Florida's "red flag" law, which allows police to get a court order to temporarily seize weapons from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The law was adopted in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed.
"We would have contacted him, seen he’s got a gun, get him into mental health, then you wouldn't have two people dead," Bradshaw said. "That’s how it’s supposed to work. That's how it can work if people will only get involved."
The sheriff's office is still investigating how the shooter obtained the gun, which Bradshaw said was originally sold to another individual.
A sister of Wall's ex-wife told the Palm Beach Post that he had schizophrenia and her sister had previously reached out to law enforcement for help.
"He had mental issues. He wasn't taking care of himself," she said. "My sister was going to the courthouse, going to police, telling everyone he needs help. My sister was trying to help him but didn't know how."
In a statement to the Associated Press, Wall's family asked for privacy as they grieved him and the victims.
"We are heartbroken at the loss of a child, and a grandmother, and of Timothy's death," the statement said. "We want to express our deepest condolences to the family of the young victim and his grandmother. During this difficult time, we ask that our family be given the time and respect to grieve and process this horrible tragedy. We hope that the same respect will be given to the victims and their family members."
As of Saturday, 19,555 people in the US have died in shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Over half of those deaths were due to suicide.
The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).