A mass shooting inside a suburban Memphis grocery store was called “the most horrific incident in Collieville history”. But this was what the city had prepared for.
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — A gunman opened fire in a suburban supermarket, and employees and customers immediately asked for cover, barricading themselves in freezers and behind pallets of goods. Police officers were swept away from training in June while still working anew. The firefighters followed, shielding themselves in ballistic gear they had purchased three years earlier in anticipation of such a moment.
“We wanted to prepare,” Buddy Billings, the fire chief in Collierville, Tenn., told reporters Friday, a day after one person was killed and 14 others were injured in a gunfight inside a Kroger store . Officials say he then killed himself.
A grim reality has been underscored after the shootings about 30 miles outside Memphis: guns that disrupted the rhythm of everyday American life have become far less shocking as the country has seen recurring incidents in schools, workplaces, and churches. suffered bloodshed.
It was just this kind of shooting threat that forced officers to put officers through regular training and assemble a cache of protective equipment for firefighters, in Collierville, Tennessee, an otherwise quiet town of more than 50,000. kept in the safest place.
“We hope that doesn’t happen,” Collieville Police Department Chief Dale Lane said of the mass shooting during a news conference Friday. “But hope is not a plan.”
In recent years, security experts said, the notion of preparedness has moved from a focus on law enforcement officers and emergency workers to an emphasis on how citizens, businesses, schools and faith communities prepare for a shooting. can be ready.
The Shelby County of Preparedness, which includes Memphis and Collierville, offers a training program that includes holding sessions with schools, churches, museums and others, often leading to a spike in requests following mass shootings. The training focused on a simple mantra that Chief Lane repeated on Friday: “Run, hide, fight.”
“What we’re starting to see more and more are recognizing the fact that this will potentially happen to them,” said Catherine Floyd, a specialist in national security at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. “In the past, we were the community that thought this could never possibly happen here, but unfortunately the increase in the severity and lethality and frequency of such incidents has really changed that narrative.”
Education programs on how to respond to an active shooter have become far more common across the country. Over the past decade, experts said, there has been an increase in training, which has become increasingly formal with the first national active shooter response standard Approved in 2017
“Hospitals have done many of these things,” said Richard Serino, a disaster preparedness specialist at Harvard University. “Businesses hire contractors to help provide training so that employees know what to do to save their own lives, save other people’s lives.”
It was unclear whether Kroger employees in Collierville had undergone any training, and the company did not respond to a message asking about its protocol. Nevertheless, some of them were praised for their efforts amidst the chaos. “We are learning about truly heroic acts involving allies, customers and first responders who selflessly help protect and protect others,” Kroger said in a statement Friday.
Inside the shop people used any crack or barrier they could find as a hiding place or as a barrier to protect themselves from the gunman. An employee ran to the roof. It is not clear how long the attack lasted or which way the attacker went inside the shop. “It was finished in a matter of minutes,” Chief Lane said.
In total, 10 workers and five customers were shot. A woman, a customer identified by family and authorities as Olivia King, was killed. Fourteen others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds; Officials said his condition had stabilized by Friday. “We haven’t lost anyone overnight,” Chief Lane said. But, he added, “there are still some people who are struggling.”
Investigators are still trying to determine the motive for the attack, but officials said the gunman, identified as a 29-year-old UK Thang, worked at a Kroger store, employed by a third-party vendor. had gone.
Police officers searched his home late Thursday and were examining the evidence confiscated, including his personal electronics. Officials declined to identify the type of weapon used in the attack. Chief Lane said it appeared the gunman had fatally shot himself as officers stormed the shop within minutes of the first reports of the shooting, which came around 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The store is located in a bustling area filled with strip malls, where restaurants and retail stores were busy again on Friday. Collierville has grown rapidly in recent years, drawing residents to subdivisions of spacious brick homes.
Still, there were signs that the shooting had deeply shocked the community. Even as officers described the many moves they took to respond to such shootings, they acknowledged the pain it took to use that training. “It tears my soul,” Chief Billings said.
Hours after the shooting, which Chief Lane called “the most horrific incident in Collierville history”, a group of pastors hurriedly arranged a short prayer at a church down the street from the store. He offered mediation for the community as it grappled with the shooting, and in particular for those who were in the shop and injured or injured.
Mark Wright, pastor of Collierville Presbyterian Church, said, “We raise them up to you, Lord.” “We pick up all the cool people who work at Kroger. A regular day turned into something else.”