APEX, N.C. — Terrified shoppers fled a crowded SuperTarget late Sunday morning after a brazen shooter walked into the store and shot and killed a cashier, a former girlfriend, before killing himself.
Guadalupe F. Rosas, 58, who had worked at the superstore in Apex's Beaver Creek Commons Shopping Center for two years, was killed after being shot as she was preparing to ring customers up at her register.
Police think the two dated five years ago. They say they don't know whether there was a history of violence between the two.
The gunman, whose name has not been released by police, turned his Glock semi-automatic pistol on himself when Apex police responding to the shooting confronted him, said Capt. Ann Stephens of the Apex Police Department.
"Our officers never fired a shot," she said.
The gunshots that took Rosas' life touched off a chaotic scene in a store crowded with Memorial Day weekend shoppers. A few hundred employees and Target customers fled the massive store in the suburban Wake town about 15 miles west of Raleigh, when the shooting erupted between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. There were no known hostages, and the shooter only targeted Rosas, Stephens said.
Justin Ley of Cary was checking out with $200 worth of groceries at the register right next to Rosas' when he saw her go past to open her station at the front of the store. He remembers seeing her nametag, "Lupe," as she squeezed past Ley's shopping cart.
Then Ley heard two loud bangs. Lupe, the cashier, collapsed just feet away from him. He looked up and saw the shooter, whom Ley described as an older white man, point a handgun at Ley and other customers.
"Calm down, calm down," Ley said to the gunman, repeating the phrase close to a dozen times.
In response, the gunman pointed his pistol at Ley and other nearby customers and ordered them out of the store with profane language.
Ley obliged, leaving his keys, cell phone, wallet, groceries and one of his flip-flops as he ran away from the armed man.
Four people were injured in the panicky exodus from the store, one with a broken bone, as people shoved each other, trampled on others or ran into objects as they fled, Stephens said. Apex police evacuated 150 from the store, and many others are thought to have fled on their own.
Rosas had worked at the Target store for two years and lived in a nearby subdivision with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. In years past, she lived in San Antonio, Chicago and California, according to public records. Little was known about the shooter, but Stephens, the Apex police captain, did say he was driving a truck with out-of-state tags.
Britons in the cooler
Just before the shots rang out, Tim Haynes entered the store with his nearly 2-year-old son Bailey and his parents, who just arrived Saturday night from England for a visit to their son's Cary home.
The family stopped to pick up groceries and snacks to fix lunch for what they thought was going to be the start of a relaxing day. But then they heard two blasts and realized there was a shooter in the store as others began to scream and flee around them.
They rushed into the back of the store's grocery section, hoping to find an exit. Instead, they barricaded themselves inside a walk-in cooler with a Target employee. They fed Bailey blueberries to keep the toddler calm. The only thought running through Tim Haynes' head was that he had to keep his boy safe.
"I was terrified," said Sandra Haynes, Tim's mother and Bailey's grandmother.
Police officers entered their area of the store, yelling "Hands up! Hands up!" Tim Haynes said. Once they realized the frightened family members in the walk-in cooler weren't a threat, the officers escorted them out of the store, guns drawn, scanning for a possible second gunman. Police later determined there was only one gunman.
"It felt like an hour," Haynes said of their short time in the cooler. "This is the safest part of America, and here we are in the middle of a shooting."
Crowd against fence
Some who fled the store rushed toward a subdivision behind the complex, knocking through a wooden fence to escape the scene.
J. Mike Blake rushed out of the back of the Target store with his fiancée and dozens of others. The group ended up outside, with a wooden fence blocking them off from a subdivision behind the store. He and his fiancée then called their parents and said their good-byes, still fearful the gunman might give chase and shoot them.
They didn't want to go around to the front of the store, for fear that the shooter or other shooters were there, said Blake, who works as sports editor for The Cary News, which is owned by The News & Observer.
Then, a woman tore off several slats of the fence and close to 60 people were able to escape into the nearby subdivision, Blake said.
"The woman who broke the fence was like a hero," he said.
Get out! Get out!
Lee Busse of Cary, who was with his wife shopping in the store, said he heard the two shots. The first shot sounded like a shelf falling on the floor and few people paid attention to it. But when the second shot rang out, panic ensued.
"Everyone started running and yelling 'Get out!' " Busse said.
Shoppers ran for the rear exit of the store, he said.
By noon, police had a large swath of the shopping center parking lot cordoned off and were turning people away from the crime scene. Wake County sheriff's deputies and other law officers, armed with semi-automatic rifles, patrolled the parking lot, checking parked cars.
A Target spokeswoman said she expected the store would be open Monday, but police anticipated they would be there through Sunday night and possibly into Monday as they collected evidence from the store, which was being treated as a crime scene.