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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Arkansas mass shooting appears to have been a ‘random’ act, police say

By Maham Javaid and Anumita Kaur Washington Post

A shooting that killed four people and injured nine at an Arkansas grocery store on Friday appears to have been “a completely random, senseless act,” officials said Sunday.

The victims seem to have been “targets of opportunity” for the shooter, who opened fire shortly before noon in the store in Fordyce – a township of roughly 3,700 people about 60 miles south of downtown Little Rock – Arkansas State Police Director Mike Hagar said at a news conference. A motive remains unclear.

The shooter, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a pistol and a bandoleer of ammunition, first opened fire in the parking lot of the Mad Butcher grocery store, then entered and “began firing indiscriminately,” Hagar said. He said the shooter then returned outside and exchanged gunfire with police, who had arrived within three minutes of the first 911 call. Police detained the suspect within five minutes, Hagar said.

Travis Eugene Posey, 44, of nearby New Edinburg, was arrested Friday in connection with the shooting and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Posey is in custody and will be charged with four counts of capital murder, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety said Saturday.

Those killed in the shooting were Roy Sturgis, 50; Shirley Taylor, 62; Callie Weems, 23; and Ellen Shrum, 81. Shrum died Saturday evening.

Two police officers were among the injured, authorities said. Five of the seven injured civilians were women. The grocery-store shooting was the 12th mass shooting in the United States this year, according to a database compiled by Northeastern University, the Associated Press and USA Today. There is no universal definition of a mass shooting, and organizations define them differently; this database defines a fatal mass shooting as a mass killing in which four or more people, excluding the perpetrator, were killed within 24 hours and “in which most or all the victims are killed by gunfire.”

There had been 27 mass shootings by this time last year, according to the database.

In the tightknit community of Fordyce, the shooting victims – and the suspect – were among the friends and neighbors of some of the responding officers, Hagar told reporters.

Weems, one of those killed, was a nurse and a mother to a 10-month-old girl, NBC News reported. Instead of fleeing the store when the violence began, she stopped to help someone who had been shot and then was shot herself, Hagar said.

It was “one of the most selfless acts I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Taylor was devoted to her multigenerational family. She was the caretaker for her diabetic husband and her mother, and she helped to look after her grandchildren, her daughter told NBC.

Sturgis is survived by his daughter, stepson and other family members, according to an obituary published Sunday. The obituary described Sturgis’s daughter as “his pride and joy” and said Sturgis “always thought of (his stepson) as his own.”

One couple attacked by the shooter – Thomas Brazil Sr., 65, and Sharon Brazil, 61 – hadn’t even entered the store. They were in the parking lot when the shooter started firing at their car, their daughter Nancy Brazil told The Washington Post.

A bullet grazed Thomas Brazil’s forehead. His wife was not physically harmed.

“It’s a blessing they are okay,” Nancy Brazil said.

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Kelsey Baker and Amber Ferguson contributed to this report.