RICHLAND, WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities are searching for a man who opened fire on Monday at a grocery store in Washington state, killing one person and injuring another. The suspect in the shooting at a Fred Meyer store in Richland is Aaron Christopher Kelley, 39, police said late Monday. The suspect fled the store after the shooting, though it was not known he left by foot or in a vehicle, Richland police Commander Chris Lee said. The suspect has had contact with law enforcement in the past, police said.
Dispatchers received a call reporting yelling and possible gunshots in the store at 11.03am. The first officers responding arrived just one minute later, police said.
Richland interim Police Chief Brigit Clary said responding officers found the two victims in close proximity to one another in the store and said although life-saving measures were tried, one had already died.
The other, a store employee, was taken to a hospital, she said. He had undergone surgery and was listed in critical condition, police said on Monday afternoon. Both were described as white males. Their names haven’t been released.
“What happened in our city today was a senseless and tragic act,” Clary said.
The suspect and the victim who died had an interaction before the shooting, according to store video footage seen by police. Police said they don’t know what the apparent conversation entailed and don’t know if the two people knew each other. The person who died was not a store employee, according to police.
Screenshots from store surveillance footage showed the suspect was wearing a plaid shirt with a dark-coloured down vest, a black gaiter or scarf pulled over his nose, light-coloured pants and athletic shoes, the Tri-City Herald reported.
Employees and customers were escorted out of the store to a parking lot while officers went aisle by aisle searching for the shooter or other victims. No other victims were found, nor was the shooter, police said.
“We feel very confident that we will locate the suspect sooner than later,” the police chief said on Monday afternoon, adding that multiple law enforcement agencies were helping the police department search and investigate. Fred Meyer officials said in a statement on Twitter they were deeply saddened and cooperating with law enforcement.
“The entire Fred Meyer Family offers our thoughts, prayers, and support to all affected individuals and families during this difficult time, and we have initiated counselling services for our associates,” the statement said. Richland is about 320 kilometres southeast of Seattle. It’s part of the Tri-Cities area, which includes Kennewick and Pasco and has a combined population of more than 280,000.
Schools were placed on a partial lockdown on Monday as well.