Two people are dead and two others were wounded in a shooting at the Southaven Walmart Supercenter off I-55 and Goodman Road early Tuesday morning. Officials report a disgruntled employee on suspension came in and fired, killing two employees and wounding a police officer who came upon him. The suspect was also wounded as he was approached to be apprehended.
DeSoto County Coroner Josh Pounders Tuesday afternoon identified the victims as Anthony Clay Brown, age 40 of Olive Branch, and Brandon W. Gales, age 38 of Hernando. Both were employed at the Walmart store in Southaven and both were identified as store managers. One of the victims was shot inside the store, the other outside the store.
At a late afternoon news conference, District Attorney John Champion identified the suspect.
“The suspect’s name Martez Terrell Abram,” Champion said. “He has been changed with two counts of murder at this point. The charges may be upgraded at a later point and other charges may be added.”
Abram, 39, and with a Southaven address, reportedly was a former employee who had been suspended a few days prior when he displayed a knife to another employee. A police report was filed but it was later determined not to go any further with the case.
“He had a knife in his belt and showed it to an employee,” Champion said. “The employee was concerned, called the police department and wished to make a report. To our knowledge, he did not threaten anybody with it.”
Calls about an active shooter at the Walmart Supercenter began to come into the Southaven 911 Dispatch Center shortly after 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Within minutes, officers arrived on the scene, said Police Chief Macon Moore at a late morning news conference.
“Three minutes after the first call, the first officers arrived on the scene,” Moore said. “There were approximately 60 Walmart employees inside the building when our officers began to arrive. Our officers began to attempt to locate the suspect at this point.”
Two police officers came upon Abram on the west side of the parking lot outside the store.
“One of our officers was shot at this time, but he was saved by his vest,” Moore said. “That officer is currently in the hospital recovering with his family. At that point the suspect was engaged by another officer and was struck twice by the officer. He was taken into custody and was transported to Regional One Health.”
UPDATE: The officer injured in the shooting was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime, according to the police department.
Abram remained in the hospital and Champion said the process of extradition will begin when the hospital is ready to release him. The officers involved in the incident are not being identified.
Champion also confirmed a fire had been started in the baby section of the store but was quickly put out.
“The way we work in Mississippi is once a crime is committed, we don’t charge anybody,” said Champion. “The grand jury charges the person. The entire case will be presented to the grand jury to include the fire inside the building.”
The district attorney also said there was a suspicious backpack that was found but it turned out to be nothing, although the Shelby County, Tennessee bomb squad was called in to investigate.
Moore credited a recent training event for helping save lives and getting his department ready for what happened.
“Two weeks ago, the entire Southaven Police Department, along with the entire Southaven Fire Department, underwent active shooter training,” said Moore. “There is no doubt that the training they received two weeks ago saved lives.”
Mayor Darren Musselwhite added that the active shooter training played an important role in his police department’s work.
“I went to that and experienced it and it was just incredible how fast our people have responded to their training,” Musselwhite said. “The officer, with him having his vest on, that obviously saved his life.”
Expressions of prayers and concerns for the families involved were also made during the news conference from Moore and later by Musselwhite.
“They’re people that do what you and I do every day,” Moore said. “We show up for work and provide for our families, but they became victims of a senseless, violent act.”
“I’ve never had a call like this,” Musselwhite added. “It’s the most dreaded call you can get. It’s not what you want to hear and we’re sad that it happened, but again proud of the way our officers responded.”
In a statement, Walmart president and CEO Greg Foran also expressed the company’s concern about the shooting and the corporation’s thanks for the work of law enforcement in its response.
"The entire Walmart family is heartbroken by the loss of two valued members of our team," Foran said. "We feel tragedies like this personally, and our hearts go out to the families of our two associates and the officer who was injured. We are relieved the suspect was apprehended, and we appreciate the quick response of the local authorities and our associates. We’ll continue to focus on assisting law enforcement in their investigation and on supporting our associates."
Moore said the investigation of the shooting continues on the criminal side and also to investigate the officer’s shooting of the suspect.
“The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has been called in to work the officer-involved aspect of this shooting,” Moore stated. “The Southaven Police Department is handling the criminal elements of the assault on the Walmart employees.”
Moore has asked that anyone who may have witnessed Tuesday morning’s shooting or have images or video of what happened contact the Southaven Police Department or other local authorities.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.