FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla .– The gunman who tracked down and then shot a grandmother and one-year-old grandson in a Florida supermarket had threatened to kill people, including children, on his Facebook page, but no one reported it, a Florida sheriff said on Friday.
Timothy J. Wall, 55, had made threats for a while before entering a Publix in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday, stalked his victims in the produce aisle before shooting the child first and then on the woman before committing suicide, Palm Beach said County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his detectives. Detectives found no connection between Wall and the woman.
“He said, ‘I want to kill people and children.’ He has friends. Obviously, they saw it. His ex-wife said he was acting strangely. He thinks he’s being followed. He’s paranoid. Do you think some fucking soul told us about it? No, ”Bradshaw said at a press conference. “If it sounds like I’m angry, I am. “
Under the Florida Red Flag Act, a law enforcement agency can ask a judge to order the seizure of the firearms of anyone who poses a danger to themselves or to others. and hold them for one year. This can be extended if an agency shows that the person is still a danger.
It was enacted in 2018 by the Republican-led Legislature shortly after a former student with a history of mental and emotional problems killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. , less than an hour’s drive from Thursday’s shooting.
Facebook also allows users to report disturbing messages and will forward them to law enforcement.
“This is how it could have been avoided. If someone had let us know who he is, we would have contacted him, seen if he had a gun, put him in sanity and you wouldn’t have had two deaths, ”Bradshaw said. “It mustn’t have happened.”
The ex-wife’s family told the Palm Beach Post that they tried to get help from Wall, but no one listened.
“He had mental problems. He wasn’t taking care of himself, ”said Maia Knight, Wall’s former sister-in-law. “My sister was going to the courthouse, to the police, telling everyone he needed help. My sister was trying to help her but didn’t know how.
The Associated Press does not name the ex-wife to protect her privacy. She did not return a call Friday asking for comment.
Wall’s family released a statement to The Associated Press. An attorney for the family said those relatives were not interested in doing interviews and hoped reporters would stop trying to contract Wall’s elderly mother.
“We are saddened by the loss of a child and a grandmother, and by the death of Timothy,” the statement said. “We want to express our deepest condolences to the family of the young victim and to her grandmother. During this difficult time, we ask that our families have the time and respect to mourn and deal with this horrific tragedy. We hope that the same respect will be accorded to the victims and to the members of their families. “
Senior Detective Major Talal Masri said the 69-year-old pushed her grandson into the store shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, using a cart shaped like a racing car for toddlers to play. while the adults are shopping. Authorities did not release the names of the victims, citing a state law that allows survivors to block their release.
About 20 minutes later, Wall arrived at the store on a red scooter. He and his ex-wife previously owned a dry cleaner in the mall, state records show, but it’s unclear when it closed. Video shows he had been both inside the Publix and at a nearby pharmacy earlier in the morning and approached people but then turned away, Masri said.
This time, Wall entered the Publix using a golf putter as a walking stick. He walked around a few minutes before entering the produce section, where the woman was shopping with her grandson still in the cart.
He followed them for about three minutes before pulling out a handgun and shooting the child, Masri said. The woman jumped on him and Wall’s weapon briefly jammed. She fell to the ground and he shot her, then himself. All died at the scene.
The shooting sent dozens of employees and customers to flee the store, but no other injuries were reported.
Wall had been in financial and personal disarray for years before the shooting.
Earlier this year, Wall declared bankruptcy. In his file, he listed $ 6,000 in assets, including $ 9 in checks, $ 18 in savings, $ 4,100 in a stock trading account, $ 740 in bitcoin and a $ 300 gun. . He said he made $ 24,000 last year as a laborer working for a temp agency and that his mode of transportation was the $ 600 scooter he drove for the murders.
During that time, he had accumulated more than $ 215,000 in debt, most of which was owed to the house his ex-wife now owns, according to the bankruptcy file. She divorced in 2018 and he ceded their home to her in 2019, according to Palm Beach County Court records.
No criminal record could be found for Wall. Wall’s bankruptcy attorney Ryan Loyacano did not respond to a call or email seeking comment.
Publix is Florida’s largest grocery chain with more than 1,200 stores in the southern United States. The company said in a statement Thursday that it was cooperating with law enforcement. The sheriff’s office said the supermarket would be closed until Saturday.
Royal Palm Beach is a middle-class suburb of 40,000 residents, approximately 15 miles inland from Palm Beach.