Police praised the “heroic” actions of a staffer and officers responding to an active shooting at an Indiana Walmart on Thursday that left one person injured.
The gunman – who police said was a former employee who had been banned from the shop – was eventually killed in a shootout with officers that lasted minutes.
“Last night could have been so, so much worse,” Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
The employees had to queue
The incident happened just before 10 p.m. local time at the Walmart in Evansville, a riverside town about 180 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The suspect — identified by police as 25-year-old Ronald Ray Mosley II — allegedly walked into the store, walked into an employee break room, and ordered the dozen or so workers there to line up, according to the Evansville Police Department.
According to Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin, a female employee, a team leader at the store, managed to escape from the room while the gunman turned his back and called 911.
Meanwhile, the gunman shot an employee and then chased a male employee who had run from the room and “was also an intended target,” Bolin said during Friday’s briefing.
The team leader returned to the break room when she saw the gunman leave, helped the wounded victim into another room and locked the door, Bolin said. While they hid there, the shooter returned to the original break room, the chief said.
“I have no doubt he would return to finish what he started and we would probably have a dead victim today instead of one alive,” Bolin said, calling the team leader an “absolute hero.” .
Officers, who were quickly dispatched to the scene, immediately entered the Walmart in search of the shooter as people inside the store attempted to hide or flee.
Seven Evansville police officers and a Vanderburgh County sheriff’s deputy fired shots with the suspect both inside and outside the store in several different areas, although the exact number of rounds was unclear, according to police.
“On a number of occasions he actually shot officers before they were actually able to shoot him,” said Sgt. Anna Gray of the Evansville Police Department said at a news conference late Thursday.
The suspect was shot dead about 8 minutes after police arrived at the scene and was pronounced dead at the store, authorities said. The entire incident lasted about 12 minutes after the first emergency call, police said.
The wounded worker was transported from the scene to a local hospital and then transported to another hospital by medical helicopter due to the extent of her injuries, police said. She is currently in stable condition in hospital, police said on Friday afternoon.
About 40 employees and 40 shoppers were in the store at the time, Gray said. The police do not assume that there are other injuries, she said. No officers were injured in the shooting.
Suspect was denied the store: police
The suspect was arrested in May 2022 on four counts of assault against employees at the store, Gray said. According to an affidavit obtained by ABC News, Mosley allegedly punched, kicked and clawed several employees and knocked another to the ground after a heated exchange of blows.
Mosley “explained that he was bullied at work and lost control” and that he “passed out” but remembered some of the struggles, the affidavit said.
Mosley was fired and banned from the store after the incident, Gray said. Protective orders were also filed on behalf of four victims, she said. He pleaded guilty to battery charge and joined the county’s mental health court program, officials said.
Hours before Thursday’s shooting, Mosley was in the Mental Health Court for a hearing related to the battery case, Gray said.
Police were working to determine if there was a connection between the suspect and the shooting victim that went beyond colleagues. At least one of the break room employees at the time of the shooting was a victim of the battery box, Gray said.
“Based on the information available, we believe Mosley targeted the employees at this particular Walmart store,” Gray said.
Police are not assuming there are any other suspects at this time.
During the execution of a search warrant, what appeared to be a one-page suicide note was found at the suspect’s home, Gray said, although police did not elaborate on the letter’s contents.
The shooting is still under investigation. In addition to gathering crime scene evidence and interviewing witnesses, investigators are reviewing footage from responding officers’ body-worn cameras and Walmart’s security cameras, according to police.
“This is a tragic incident. We can’t imagine what the witnesses, staff and customers inside went through,” Evansville Police Department Officer Taylor Merriss said at a news conference early Friday. “But without the courage and professionalism of our department, many more lives could have been lost last night.”
Walmart told ABC News in a statement late Thursday that it was “shocked by the senseless violence that took place at our Evansville store.”
“As we learn more, we will do everything we can to support our employees in dealing with this tragedy,” the company added. “We are grateful to the local first responders and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as their investigations progress.”
ABC News’ Peter Charalambous, Ahmad Hemingway and Cherise Rudy contributed to this report.