No Apparent Motive in Arkansas Shooting, but the Reaction Is ‘So Personal’

The gunman who opened fire on Friday at a grocery store in Fordyce, Ark., killing four people and hurting 10 others, did not appear to target anyone, officials say, or have any known links to the victims. But the officers in the town of 3,400 who rushed there and eventually subdued the assailant could not have felt more connected.

“They knew everyone personally, from the suspect to the victims on scene,” said Col. Mike Hagar, the director of the Arkansas State Police. He said the officers and deputies were not referring to the victims generically. “They’re calling them by name. They know these people. They’re their friends. They’re their neighbors.” And that, he said, has made this “so personal and so difficult.”

That level of closeness was among the revelations Sunday as the police provided the fullest account yet of what was essentially eight minutes of mayhem. Officers arrived at the Mad Butcher grocery store three minutes after the first shot was fired, then took down the gunman five minutes later.

Four people died: Callie Weems, 23; Roy Sturgis, 50; Shirley Taylor, 62; and Ellen Shrum, 81. An additional person was identified late Saturday as having been injured by the gunman, bringing the total to 10. Of the five people who remained hospitalized, one woman was still in critical condition at a hospital in Little Rock, Mr. Hagar said.

Ms. Weems, who was trained as a nurse, was inside the grocery store. When she saw that someone had been shot, she tended to that person instead of fleeing the store, Mr. Hagar said. Then she was shot herself.

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

The suspect, Travis Eugene Posey, 44, of nearby New Edinburg, is expected to be charged with four counts of capital murder, which could include the death penalty. It was not clear when he would make his first court appearance, Mr. Hagar said. It was also unclear whether Mr. Posey had legal representation.

Speaking at a news conference in Little Rock, he cautioned that the investigation was still continuing and that Mr. Posey’s motives remained unclear. But Mr. Hagar added that no indication had emerged yet. “It was just a completely random, senseless act,” he said.

And while Mr. Hagar said that he was not aware whether Mr. Posey, who is known as Joey, had any medical or mental health issues, “that’s obviously something that will be the focus of the investigation.”

Still, as a community in mourning prepared to hold a candlelight vigil Sunday evening in front of the Mad Butcher store, Mr. Hagar did not mask his outrage over what he called “the most cowardly, pathetic actions imaginable, as he was literally preying on defenseless victims, the majority of which were female.”

Shortly before noon on Friday, Mr. Posey arrived in his truck at a small shopping center that includes the Mad Butcher, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and a pistol, and wearing a bandolier with dozens of shotgun rounds, Mr. Hagar said.

He was not wearing body armor. He immediately began shooting at people in the parking lot, then walked into the grocery store and began “firing indiscriminately at both customers and employees,” Mr. Hagar said.

Mr. Posey was acting alone, he added. Officers from the Fordyce Police Department and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Mike Knoedl, responded. After Mr. Posey was injured in the gunfight, which totaled dozens of rounds, officials opted to detain him in neighboring Ouachita County, given the heavy involvement of local law enforcement.

“We just needed to have a little bit of separation and space,” Mr. Hagar said.

The Fordyce Police Department later posted on its Facebook page that it was the worst day in the town’s history. “It was a terrifying experience for the community, and us as law enforcement,” it said.

In an interview Sunday, Helen Browning, Ms. Weems’s mother, said that her daughter, who worked at the Dallas County Medical Center, not far from the Mad Butcher, “has probably taken care of every officer that was there or their child.”

“She died doing what she loved,” Ms. Browning said.

Ms. Browning also said she knew the Posey family, who have lived in the area for generations.

“There’s no hate in my heart, this is nothing on them,” she said. “I’m going to go to their house later and tell them that in person, because I know they’re hurting, too.”

On Saturday, Patricia Pinckard, 65, who lives in a small white house just to the left and behind the Mad Butcher, broke out in tears as she discussed the shooting. She has been a resident on and off all her life.

Fordyce, she said, is such a “little bitty town.”

Erica Sweeney contributed reporting.

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