What to Know
- 1 person is dead and 2 are wounded after a shooting at a Long Island grocery store Tuesday morning, police said at a news briefing
- A person of interest who cops "believe" to be the shooter has been identified as Gabriel DeWitt Wilson; he was taken into custody hours after the deadly shooting, law enforcement sources said
- In a statement, Stop & Shop said it was “shocked and heartbroken by this act of violence that occurred at our store" and pledged its full cooperation with the investigation
A man wearing all black walked into an upstairs office area of a Long Island Stop & Shop late Tuesday morning and shot three people, killing one of them, in the town of West Hempstead before fleeing the scene, Nassau County police officials said.
Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, a 31-year-old man who police said was responsible for the 11:20 a.m. gunfire at the Cherry Valley Avenue store, was taken into custody around 3 p.m. after a four-hour manhunt, police confirmed.
Details on his apprehension weren't immediately known, other than he was found on Terrance Avenue in Hempstead, about a seven-minute drive from the store. Law enforcement sources said that police were awaiting a search warrant for the apartment in which they believe Wilson was hiding, in order to search for the gun used.
Police say witnesses reported seeing Wilson flee the area with a small handgun after the gun attack. Earlier, a senior law enforcement official said he may have hopped on a bus to NYC to escape, and was seen heading west.
Wilson has employment ties to Stop & Shop but it was not clear if he was a current or former employee at the West Hempstead location, investigators said. Both a Stop & Shop worker and a New York uncle of Wilson told News 4 the suspect worked in front of the store and moved shopping carts.
Police officials wouldn't speculate on a potential motive when asked about the workplace connection Tuesday.Law enforcement sources said it appeared to have been a work-related dispute. (Here's everything we know about Wilson right now.)
It wasn't immediately clear if the victims were targeted specifically but all appeared to be employees with Stop & Shop, investigators said. The victim who died was a 49-year-old man, Nassau County Police said. Two other victims, a man and a woman, were taken to area hospitals; they were said to be conscious and alert and assisting law enforcement. Their identities haven't been released and the nature of their injuries wasn't known.
Wilson faces murder and attempted murder charges for Tuesday's gun violence.
The West Hempstead School District confirmed that its schools were in a "lock out" and urged the public not to come to its buildings. A spokeswoman for Nassau County said police were asking all nearby residents to remain indoors as police searched for Wilson.
In a statement, Stop & Shop said it was “shocked and heartbroken by this act of violence that occurred at our store."
"Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, our associates, customers and the first responders who have responded heroically to this tragic situation," the statement continued. "At this time, we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement on the investigation. The store will remain closed until further notice, and we appreciate the Long Island community's support during this difficult time."
Video from the scene showed at least a dozen ambulances and police vehicles gathered outside the Cherry Valley Avenue store. A few hundred shoppers were said to have been in the supermarket at the time of the shooting. Nassau police stopped to question as many as they could and identify strong potential witnesses.
A woman who had just pulled into the parking lot to do her shopping says she was walking in the door when people running out told her there had been a shooting.
"Everybody seemed to start running out of the store, panicked and frantic," Liz Crew-Lee told News 4 of the commotion moments after the gunfire.
Barbara Butterman, one of the hundreds of shoppers inside the store at the time, said she heard four or five shots, and then saw people running.
Another man who said his mother is a manager inside the store described what others told him went down inside the store, with the man apparently trying to get his job back.
"He just came into the store, when you walk in, you make a left and there's the staircase," said Thomas Moran, whose mother was not hurt. "He went upstairs, asked for his job back, manager said no and he just pulled outa gun."
Law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation tell News 4 Wilson used to live in Reisterstown, Maryland, which is in Baltimore County.
He was previously arrested there for assault in 2006 and gun charges, as well as a number of marijuana possession busts, sources said. Details on the cases and any possible convictions weren't immediately clear. Sources say Wilson lived in Maryland through at least 2010.
The uncle of Wilson News 4 spoke with described his nephew as a good kid who could be a "hothead." He said he just hoped he would be taken into custody alive.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state was closely monitoring the developments.
"The New York State Police has been directed to assist local authorities in their search for the perpetrator, and my team and I are in constant contact with first responders on the ground," the governor said. "I'm praying for the victims, and my heart breaks for their families and loved ones."
John R. Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, which represents many workers at the West Hempstead Stop & Shop, said the union was "devastated" by Tuesday's shooting.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and all those, including workers and customers, who witnessed today’s horrifying events. Our priority is and always will be the physical and mental well-being of our members," Durso said in a statement.
“The working people at Stop & Shop are essential workers and ensured that all of our communities, including West Hempstead, had what they needed to navigate the pandemic," Durso added. "The last year has been one full of resiliency, but also one of great worry. These workers have been through a tremendous amount and should never have to fear for their safety. We as a society must recognize that gun violence is a workplace safety issue and that as part of this healing, we must make changes to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We owe it to our essential workers.”
UFCW President Marc Perrone echoed those sentiments, saying in a statement that "this latest mass shooting is a tragic reminder that the pandemic is not the only threat these workers face."
"While we have rightfully focused on doing more to protect essential workers from the risks of the pandemic, more must be done by our corporate and elected leaders to address the epidemic of gun violence that threatens workers' lives, and continues to infect more and more workplaces," the statement read.