A gunman opened fire inside a grocery store in Collierville, Tenn., on Thursday, killing one person and injuring at least 12 others as panicked employees and customers ran for safety, hiding in freezers and locked offices, the authorities said.
The authorities said they received a report of a shooting at 1:30 p.m. inside a Kroger store in a busy area with shops and restaurants in Collierville, about 30 miles east of Memphis.
Officers soon flooded the store, going from aisle to aisle and room to room, helping injured victims and escorting employees out of hiding. One worker who was on the roof was brought to safety.
“They were doing what they had been trained to do — run, hide, fight,” Dale Lane, the Collierville police chief, said at a news conference. The training, he added, “saved people’s lives today.”
The gunman was found in the back of the store, and was believed to have been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Chief Lane said. The man’s vehicle was still in the parking lot, he said.
A spokeswoman for the town of Collierville, Jennifer Casey, said the gunman had been employed by a “third-party vendor of Kroger” but she declined to share the name of the vendor.
Chief Lane would not say what type of weapon the man had used, saying it was part of the investigation. He said the injuries to the victims were “very serious.”
The shooting was “the most horrific event that has occurred in Collierville history,” he said.
Forty-four employees were inside the store when the gunman began shooting, turning a typical afternoon of shopping and working into a scene of bloodshed and terror.
Glenda McDonald, a Kroger employee, told Fox 13, a local TV station, that it sounded like the gunshots were coming from the deli. She said she ran out the front door.
“Several people did get shot — some customers and employees,” she told the station, adding that she did not know what the attacker looked like. “The only thing I heard was the gunshots.”
Brignetta Dickerson, who said she had worked at the Kroger for 32 years, told local reporters that she was at a cash register when she heard gunshots.
She said she ran with several co-workers and customers to the back of the store and into a receiving area for deliveries. But the gunman “came right behind us and started shooting and kept on shooting, shooting, shooting,” Ms. Dickerson told WREG-TV.
An employee was shot in the head and a customer was shot in the stomach, she said. The man who was shot in the head was in his 20s, and asked Ms. Dickerson to call his mother, she told WREG. Ms. Dickerson said she called but was unable to reach her.
“My only concern was my co-workers and my customers,” Ms. Dickerson said, adding that she told the people who were with her: “Just sit down and relax and you’ll be OK.”
Regional One Health, a hospital in Memphis, received four patients in critical condition and five in “noncritical condition,” a spokeswoman said. Baptist Memorial Hospital in Collierville received one patient, who was discharged, and Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis received two, according to a spokeswoman.
Chief Lane said at an evening news conference that one victim was in surgery and one was in an intensive care unit.
Kroger said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened by the incident” and was cooperating with local law enforcement officials.
“The entire Kroger family offers our thoughts, prayers and support to the individuals and families of the victims during this difficult time,” the company said.
“The store will remain closed while the police investigation continues, and we have initiated counseling services for our associates,” it said.
The shooting sent shock waves through Collierville, a suburb of about 51,000. Angie Kilpatrick, a school nurse who has lived near the town her whole life, said her phone was flooded with calls and texts because she shops at the Kroger three or four times a week.
“In a town this size, we’re probably going to know someone,” she said of those who were wounded.
Local news stations showed a line of ambulances at the store with their lights flashing, as well as a group of employees gathered in the parking lot. Some stood in a circle, praying.
The shooting came about six months after a gunman opened fire inside a King Soopers grocery store, which is owned by Kroger, in Boulder, Colo. Ten people, including a police officer, were killed in that attack.
“We are heartbroken that another act of senseless violence has occurred at a grocery store,” Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents Kroger employees, said in a statement.
“No one in any part of Memphis or America should have to face violence at work or in their community,” Mr. Perrone said, “and we, as a nation, must do more to prevent these acts of violence from ever occurring.”
Laura Kebede contributed reporting from Collierville, Tenn. Alyssa Lukpat, Sophie Kasakove and Giulia Heyward also contributed reporting.
Brignetta Dickerson knew the popping sound she heard on Thursday inside the Kroger grocery store where she worked was a gunshot, as she yelled at customers to “Go! Go! Go!”
As they ran to the back of the store in Collierville, Tenn., a Memphis suburb, the sounds followed, Ms. Dickerson told Region 8 News, a television station in the area.
“I heard him come to the back,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap.’”
They watched, she said, as the gunman shot one of her co-workers in the head and a customer in the stomach. At least 13 people were injured, one fatally, in the shooting, and the police said the gunman had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Glenda McDonald, who works in the store’s floral department, said she thought she saw the gunman fire at a bagger and some customers as she escaped the building.
“I just ran out the door,” Ms. McDonald told The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I left my purse, my keys, everything.”
The chaos continued outside of the store as authorities responded to 911 calls.
“I have never seen so many police cars, in one place, in my life,” Bruce Pates, 73, said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Pates had entered a tire shop across the street from Kroger. By the time he came out two hours later, there was a flurry of activity outside.
He watched as fire trucks and ambulances left the scene, only to be replaced seconds later with others. Rows of police cars filed into the parking lot.
Manny Reis, 49, was driving to Kroger when he saw a fleet of police cars rushing to the store. He ended up near the back of the building and saw someone who was injured.
“Somebody was sitting down without their shirt on,” he said. “The Fire Department showed up and basically grabbed that person and carried that person away.”
Although Ms. Dickerson is safe, she said she still felt numb.
“I’m OK, I’m OK,” she said. “I’ve been through everything, but this right here took the cake.”