A gunman opened fire Monday evening inside a Walmart in Ohio and wounded four people before killing himself — the second shooting in 24 hours to take place at a store operated by the retail giant.
The attack at the Walmart in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, just days before Thanksgiving injured four shoppers: three women and a man. Police said three were in stable condition and one of the women in critical but stable condition on Tuesday afternoon at area hospitals.
Authorities declined to release the identities of the victims, including their races, saying they had not ruled out that the attack was racially motivated.
“Tragedy struck our beloved community Monday evening, and, in the face of adversity, the strength of our community shines through,” Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone said during a Tuesday news conference.
Walmart said it was working closely with investigators to try to determine why the shooter, identified as 20-year-old Benjamin Charles Jones, of Dayton, opened fire.
Police said Jones entered the store at about 8:30 p.m. Monday wielding a Hi-Point 45-caliber Carbine long gun. He shot an undetermined number of rounds, leaving injured victims throughout the building, before turning the weapon on himself, authorities said.
Efforts made by The Associated Press to reach relatives of Jones were unsuccessful.
“We’re heartbroken by what’s happened at our Beavercreek, Ohio store. This remains a developing situation, and we’re working closely with investigators on the scene,” Walmart said in a statement.
Christopher Suffron told WHIO-TV in Dayton that he was shopping with his wife when they heard five or six shots ring out. “I turned around and told her to get behind me,” he said.
Suffron said he then saw the shooter about 10 feet away and the couple ran out of the store through nearby receiving doors. As they escaped, he said he heard another five or six shots.
The shooting happened almost exactly one day after a man shot and killed a woman before fatally shooting himself outside a Walmart in Anchorage, Alaska. Police in Anchorage said Tuesday it was a domestic-violence related crime. They said in a statement no one else was involved.
Both shootings came nearly a year after a Walmart supervisor in Chesapeake, Virginia, fatally shot six employees two days before Thanksgiving.
Walmart, which has police outposts in some of its 4,600 locations nationwide, has taken steps over the years to address gun violence. The retailer based in Bentonville, Arkansas, launched a computer-based active shooter training in 2015 that focused on three pillars: avoid the danger, keep your distance and lastly, defend.
Then in 2019, after a white gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in a racist attack that targeted Hispanic shoppers, Walmart discontinued sales of certain kinds of ammunition. It also asked that customers no longer openly carry firearms in its stores. The retailer now sells only hunting rifles and related ammunition.
“We take a comprehensive approach to promoting a safe shopping and work environment—including policies, training, monitoring, and response—as well as regular reviews of security protocols and practices,” Joe Pennington, a company spokesperson, said in a statement. “While we don’t publicly discuss security measures we take in our stores, the safety of our associates and customers is a top priority.”
The store in Ohio where Monday’s shooting took place was the scene of a fatal shooting involving police almost 10 years ago. A white police officer shot 22-year-old John Crawford III after he picked up an unpackaged pellet rifle he found on a shelf in August 2014. The family of the Black man reached a settlement of $1.7 million with the city of Beavercreek. The settlement included changes in police policy.
Beavercreek Mayor Stone said Monday’s shooting brought the earlier case to mind.
“It can’t help but bring back memories,” he said. “You know, it’s a tragedy all in itself, though, and this is the tragedy we are grieving for, and it’s a shame in this way that it has to be compared to the previous shooting.”
Smyth reported from Columbus and Seewer from Toledo. AP video journalist Patrick Orsagos in Columbus and AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.