A “troubled employee,” who killed a supermarket manager and wounded two co-workers, asked to be transferred from his Long Island store 40 minutes before opening fire, police said Wednesday.
But it still wasn’t immediately clear what might have prompted suspect Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, 31, to take deadly action at a Stop & Shop filled with customers late Tuesday morning in West Hempstead, according to the Nassau County Police Department.
Manager Ray Wishropp, 49 of Valley Stream, was fatally shot with a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol, authorities said.
Wilson fired seven shots at five people, striking Wishropp, a 50-year-old man from Bethpage and a 26-year-old woman from Bayshore, according to officials. The wounded man was grazed on the cheek and struck twice in shoulder. The woman was hit once in the shoulder, police said.
Before the gunfire erupted in the second-floor manager’s office, Wilson had been at that very location asking to be transferred to another Stop & Shop location in Hempstead, Nassau County Police Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said.
“It was not confrontational at that time,” Fitzpatrick told reporters on Wednesday. “He left the building without any violence or anything else being said. Forty minutes later, he returned to the building and you know the rest. He walked right up to the offices, opened fire on five individuals.”
There was apparently no hint that Wilson’s transfer request was at issue or would be denied.
“He was told to have the (Hempstead) manager call him (West Hempstead managers),” Fitzpatrick said. “He (Wilson) was going to have to fill out a form and that would happen. It was uneventful.”
Wilson, who worked as a shopping cart collector, had ongoing issues with his co-workers and had been hauled into meetings with managers on a number of occasions, police said.
“Gabriel was a troubled employee and in the months previous to this incident he was having unwanted advances toward females that worked there,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was having disputes with other workers and threatening them and was brought into the management office several times.”
A rep for UFCW Local 342, which represents meat and seafood workers at the store, said there was no record of any complaints about Wilson from any of their members.
A spokesman for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 338, which represents the market’s other employees, said Wednesday she could not comment any pending complaints or grievance.
But the local president said Tuesday that there hadn’t been any formal complaints or concerns about the suspected shooter nor any “indication that there was anything like this on the horizon.”
The suspect was caught at a nearby apartment building on Terrance Avenue in Hempstead. The gun used in Tuesday’s shooting was not immediately found.
“Detectives are out right now retracing his steps trying to … find the gun,” Fitzpatrick said
Wilson was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. If convicted of all charges, he could spend anywhere from 25 years to life in prison, according to the DA.
Wilson pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Wednesday, and his next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
Wilson has a lengthy arrest record in Baltimore and had once been shot in the head, according to police. Defense lawyer Brian Carmody said that shooting happened when his client was 19 years old.
“He’s got some problems related to that,” Carmody told NBC News.
The store is expected to remain closed until Sunday morning, as police continue their investigation there.