ROYAL PALM BEACH, Florida — A man shot and killed a woman and a toddler on Thursday morning before committing suicide at a Publix supermarket in Royal Palm Beach. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said:.
The shooting took place in the store near the vegetable section just after 11:30 a.m. Police believe the gunman and the victims, a woman and her grandson, may have known each other, the Palm Beach Post reported. The boy would have turned 2 this month.
No names have been released.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, sheriff’s spokesman Teri Barbera said detectives spoke with witnesses and watched surveillance videos.
“This was NOT an active shooting situation,” Barbera said in a statement.
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Juan Guardia said he was in the supermarket’s deli when the chaos broke out.
“I heard, ‘They’re shooting!’ A female Publix employee said, ‘Run! Shoot!'” Guardia recalled. “I was scared. It’s sad because everything went fast. Everyone was running. Some employees were crying.”
Shortly before noon, several patrol cars arrived at The Crossroads shopping center. A sheriff’s office helicopter hovered over the store and a Palm Beach County fire truck was on the scene.
While a handful of Publix employees were allowed to leave the store, most of the employees and a few customers were kept inside to be interviewed by agents. At around 2:30 PM, some workers began to leave the store.
Law enforcement officers checked the license plates of cars in the parking lot. People were not allowed to move their vehicles.
Neighbors were shocked.
“This is a friendly Publix. I can’t believe this crazy thing happened,” said Tracy Greene, who shops often at the store.
“This isn’t a Publix problem. This is a people problem,” said Oahtee Moody, a Royal Palm Beach resident who lives across from the store. “I was born and raised here, and I never expected this to happen.”
Publix has more than 1,200 stores in seven states in the southeastern US. Maria Brous, a spokesperson for Publix, told USA TODAY that the company was working with local law enforcement.
“Our thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy,” Brous said.
County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who represents the area, said in a statement the shooting was “heartbreaking.”
“We have become too numb to gun violence,” she said. “Today we mourn the loss of these lives and pray for those within Publix who witnessed this tragedy, as well as the first responders who continue to run towards danger to protect the public. Tomorrow we must rise and have a very honest conversation about why this happened and what specifically can be done to prevent this violence. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Royal Palm Beach is a village of about 40,000 people, according to data from the Census Bureau. The village is located about 15 miles inland, west of West Palm Beach.
Contributions: Associated Press