ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. – A man shot a toddler and his grandmother to death before turning his handgun on himself inside a Publix in Royal Palm Beach late Thursday morning, sending customers and cashiers fleeing from the store in fear.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office identified the gunman late Thursday as 55-year-old Timothy J. Wall. He apparently had no connection to the woman and toddler, and detectives are still investigating what motivated him to shoot, said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera.
Barbera said the Sheriff’s Office will not release the names of the woman and her grandson because their family invoked Marsy’s Law, which provides certain rights to crime victims.
The shooting occurred about 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the Crossroads shopping plaza at 1180 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. It was over by the time the first deputy arrived and found three people dead in the produce section, Barbera said. No one else was hurt.
Lynn Waterman, 61, was at the cashier paying and asking for cigarettes when she heard what she thought were balloons popping. Suddenly, she said, the cashier said there was a shooter and fled.
“Everybody ran out of the store and I stood in the parking lot a while and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why am I standing out here? He could come out and shoot us,’” Waterman said.
Few people were in the store at the time, she said. When she hurried out, she left $10 in cash on the counter, but she isn’t worried about it. “I’m glad I’m alive, that’s all,” she said.
Another shopper, Juan Guardia, said he was in the deli section when the shooting began. He didn’t see the gunman, but he “heard a shot and an employee ran and yelled, ‘Hey, shooter! Shooter!’... [Everyone] ran to the back of the supermarket and then we went out” the back of the store, Guardia said.
While others were running out, one man was running in.
“We actually had a deputy that was at the dry cleaners down the way,” Barbera said. “As soon as he heard the call go out, he immediately entered Publix.”
A host of other deputies arrived to secure the scene and cordon off the plaza. Now investigators are working to determine what led up to the shooting.
Publix said it wouldn’t provide information during the investigation. “Our thoughts are with those who are impacted by this tragedy,” said Publix spokeswoman Nicole Krauss.
Publix will be closed until Saturday, Barbera said. Customers who left behind personal items can pick them up from PBSO deputies in front of Publix on Friday morning between 9 a.m. and noon.
Elvis Way, a grocery bagger for 13 years, was outside collecting shopping carts when the shooting occurred and shoppers came racing out of the store screaming “Run!”
Way took refuge in a nearby Dollar Tree store, crouched to the ground telling shoppers there had been a shooting at Publix. He later raced outside and hid as close as he could to law enforcement.
“It’s awful,” he said as he walked through a rear parking lot of the plaza Thursday afternoon, using his black apron to rub sweat from his face.
Joey Mendoza, 62, of Royal Palm Beach, was pulling into the parking lot to get a couple sandwiches at the Publix deli when he saw police cruisers and officers, some in tactical gear, sprinting with their guns drawn.
“A couple of minutes later, I would’ve been in there,” he said. “That’s what I’m thinking. Two, three minutes later, usually, because I parked right in the front. At that point, I didn’t bother getting out. I saw them running in; I didn’t get out of the vehicle.
“They just kept coming. Cruiser after cruiser, ambulance after ambulance, firetruck after firetruck.”