A grandmother who was shot and killed along with her 1-year-old grandson inside a Florida Publix may have helped prevent the gunman from killing more people inside the supermarket, authorities said Monday.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials said the interaction between the grandmother and the gunman inside the Royal Palm Beach Publix Thursday morning may have caused the gun to malfunction, forcing the gunman to reload.
"It is believed the grandmother may have helped prevent an even worse tragedy from occurring," the sheriff's office said in a brief statement.
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Authorities are still investigating the shooting that left the 69-year-old woman and her 23-month-old grandson dead. Their names haven't been released.
Detectives haven't released a motive in the shooting or what possible connection the victims had to the gunman, 55-year-old Timothy Wall, who turned the gun on himself after shooting them.
According to a timeline released by the sheriff's office, the gunman had made a purchase at the Publix around 9 a.m. Thursday and returned just before 11:30 a.m. using a golf club putter as a cane.
The gunman watched the victims, who had entered the store around 11:07 a.m., from across the produce section before he shot the child then got into a struggle with the grandmother, officials said. During the struggle, the gunman shoved her to the ground and shot her, before he shot himself.
The gunman had arrived at the store on a red scooter, but officials said there are no cameras that capture the parking lot area so it's unknown if there may have been an interaction between the victims and the gunman in the parking lot.
Authorities said the gunman had been threatening to kill people, including children, on his Facebook page, but officials said they aren't releasing the Facebook postings while the incident remains under investigation.
"He has said, 'I want to kill people and children.' He's got friends. Obviously, they saw that. His ex-wife said that he has been acting strange. He thinks he is being followed. He's paranoid. Do you think a damn soul told us about that? No," Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said at a press conference Friday. "That's how this could have been prevented. If somebody would have let us know who he is, we would have contacted him, seen if he has got a gun, gotten him into mental health and you wouldn't have two people dead. This didn't have to happen."
The gunman had been in financial and personal disarray for years before the shooting.
Earlier this year, he had declared bankruptcy. In his filing, he listed $6,000 in assets, including $9 in checking, $18 in savings, $4,100 in a stock trading account, $740 in bitcoin and a $300 gun. He said he earned $24,000 last year as a laborer working through a temp agency and his mode of transportation was the $600 scooter he rode to the killings.
Meanwhile, he had accumulated more than $215,000 in debts, most of it owed on the home his ex-wife now owns, the bankruptcy file shows. She divorced him in 2018 and he had signed over their house to her in 2019, Palm Beach County court records show.