Three people are confirmed dead after a shooting inside a well-known grocery store on Elkhart's northeast side Wednesday night. Police tell us the shooter was close to shooting another victim when officers used lethal force to stop him.
Around 10 p.m., Elkhart police were called to Martin's Supermarket in the 3900 block of E. Bristol St. after getting a report there was an active shooter inside the store. They were on scene within three minutes.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith issued a formal statement in the early hours of the morning, confirming three dead, including the shooter, an employee and a shopper.
"There's not a day that goes by, it seems like anymore, where we're not learning of a school shooting or at a business ... we hope that this would never come to our hometown and here it is," Smith said.
“You can't walk around in life afraid," Smith continued. "You have to go about your business. But you also have to know there's bad people out there...so it's an unfortunate situation.”
Smith says the shooter walked into the store with a large semi-automatic handgun and shot one of the victims, made his way through the supermarket and fired another shot, killing the second person.
Both of the victims, who were found about 12 aisles apart in the store, were women. One was a 21-year-old Martin's employee. The other was a 44-year-old shopper. The gunman was 22-years-old and lived in the area.
When police arrived the gunman had the store manager on his knees with a gun to his head.
When the gunman saw the Elkhart officers, he ran. Police tracked him down and shot him.
Smith said the officers likely saved the manager's life and the lives of others.
“No doubt Elkhart PD was prepared,” said Smith. “They knew what they were confronted with. They acted with bravery. They knew when they went into the store and heard the gunshot. They went there, and that was in an effort to stop [more people from dying] in the store.”
Smith says police found a handgun and a large knife in the store near the shooter.
There were 10 to 12 people in the store at the time of the shooting. Witnesses were being interviewed at the Elkhart police station.
Employees told police the shooter frequents the store but they have never had any issues with him.
Police have not given any official word on a motive.
“There aren't words that can explain it,” Smith said. “You never know why this happens. People are depressed. People do things that aren't rational. You can't explain it a lot of the time.”
There is nothing right now to indicate the shooter knew the victims. Police say right now this is random.
It's a very large crime scene, said Smith, so investigators are still going over the scene. That could continue through the morning.
Martin's Supermarket issued this statement:
Martin’s Super Markets located at 3900 E. Bristol Street in Elkhart will remain closed today after the tragic events of last night.
“The entire Martin’s family is saddened by this tragedy,” says Rob Bartels, Martin’s President & CEO. “We will be offering counseling services to employees today and for as long as necessary. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved and the entire community. Additionally, we would like to thank everyone in the community for all your thoughts and prayers,” adds Bartels.
Martin’s has been and will continue to coordinate with police authorities as necessary.
“We know that the quick response from Elkhart Police saved lives, and for that we will be forever grateful. We appreciate the professional way in which both the Elkhart and Indiana State Police have handled the situation,” says Bartels.
Martin’s is asking all media agencies to please consider the sensitive nature of these events and not ask store employees for comments. All inquiries should be directed to Martin’s Super Markets corporate office.
The names of the victims are expected to be released later this morning -- the shooter's name will be released in a 10:30 news conference. WSBT will carry that live on air and it will be streamed here on WSBT.com.