A man wearing military fatigues walked into a supermarket in Old Bridge, New Jersey, and fatally shot two fellow workers with an AK-47-style assault rifle before killing himself with a pistol, authorities said.
Police were called around 4:30 a.m. today after shots were fired inside a Pathmark store, where workers were stocking shelves. Both the gunman and victims lived in Old Bridge, a township of about 65,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of New York City, Mayor Owen Henry said.
The shooter, Terence Tyler, 23, was working in the store about 3:30 a.m. when he went to his vehicle and drove away, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement sent by e-mail. He returned about 20 minutes later dressed in desert camouflage clothing and brandishing the assault rifle, according to the prosecutor.
Tyler, who began working at the store Aug. 20, opened fire on an employee standing outside the store, who ran inside and warned co-workers. The shooter then entered the Pathmark and fired at five workers, striking and killing Cristina LoBrutto, 18, and Bryan Breen, 24, the authorities said.
The motive isn’t clear, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told reporters at the scene. Tyler fired at least 16 shots, and several ammunition magazines were recovered, the prosecutor’s office said.
“This is every mayor’s nightmare,” Henry, who took office in January, said in a telephone interview.
A person by the name of Terence S. Tyler served as a Marine from 2008 to 2010, a Marine Corps spokesman, Captain Richard Ulsh, said in an e-mail. His home at the time he entered the military was Brooklyn, New York, and his primary duty station was in Twentynine Palms, California.
Tyler didn’t serve at sea or overseas, according to his military record. At the time of his discharge, he was a lance corporal, with a specialty as a rifleman. He received two awards, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a National Defense Service Medal.
Tyler lived in the London Terrace apartments behind the Pathmark, said neighbor Maritza Hernandez, whose 19-year-old daughter Miranda Miranda, works at the market and had switched shifts with the female victim.
Hernandez said she hugged her daughter after hearing of the shooting. He was a “loner” and lived with his parents, Hernandez said.
“It’s scary,” said Hernandez, 40. “You really don’t know who your neighbor is and what they have in that house.”
The Pathmark, at U.S. 9 and Downing Street, was scheduled to open at 6 a.m. Twelve to 14 employees were in the store at the time of the shootings, Kaplan said.
“We are terribly saddened by the incident at our Old Bridge Pathmark store this morning,” Marcy Connor, a spokeswoman for Pathmark’s owner, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., said in a statement. “We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and our appreciation to local law enforcement. Our main concern is the safety of our associates and customers. We continue to work with local authorities during the investigation.”
Rich Bryant, an assistant manager who worked at the Old Bridge Pathmark before transferring to one in East Brunswick several months ago, said he had known Breen since working at the store’s deli counter.
“He was a great guy” said Bryant, who stopped near the scene to pay his respects. “It blew me back; I couldn’t believe it. This broke my heart.”
Police don’t believe the shooting victims were targeted, Kaplan said.
“That is being investigated and as it relates to the background of the shooter that is also being investigated,” he said. “I am aware there are reports out there that he had a military background. I cannot confirm that.”
Carolynn Anders, who lives in an apartment behind the Pathmark, said she was sitting on her ground-floor balcony with her 3 1/2-year-old grandson having her first cup of coffee shortly before 5 a.m. when police told them to go inside. She said she didn’t hear the gunshots.
Anders said she shops daily at the store and is on a first-name basis with many employees.
“We could see what was going on and people were running,” said Anders, 66. “The SWAT team came running and they told us to get back inside.”
The incident followed by a week a fatal workplace-related shooting near the Empire State Building in Manhattan. A man fired from his job returned to his former neighborhood and shot an ex-colleague, triggering a firefight with police near one of New York’s most recognizable landmarks. The shooter and a 41-year-old man died and as many as nine people were injured.
The shootings also follow a series of mass killings, including one on July 20 near Denver, when a masked gunman opened fire in a suburban Aurora theater, killing 12 and injuring 58. James Holmes, a former graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado in Denver, faces multiple murder charges.
In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple Aug. 5 before being wounded by police and taking his own life.
“It seems like every day we’re reading about this in the newspaper,” Henry said. “I don’t know what’s making people cross this line.”