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Police search for motive in deadly ND Wal-Mart shooting

Wed, 27 May 2015 16:54:47 GMT
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By Blake Nicholson and James MacPherson Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — An autopsy will determine if a man had drugs or alcohol in his system when he fatally shot one worker and injured a second before killing himself at a North Dakota Wal-Mart store, police said Wednesday.

"It's probably the next significant development in this case," Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said. He did not know when autopsy results would be available.

Police said the shooting at the store in Grand Forks a few minutes after 1 a.m. Tuesday may have been random. Investigators have found no link between the gunman, 21-year-old Marcell Willis, and the store or the employees whom he shot.

"There's no apparent motive that jumps out at this time," Zimmel said.

Willis was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, about a dozen miles west of the city.

"We just need to plug away and talk to witnesses and compile information and continue to flip over stones and rocks and compile every scrap we can," Zimmel said.

Police on Wednesday identified the victims as Gregory Weiland, 70, of Grand Forks, who was killed, and Lisa Braun, 47, of Grand Forks, who was injured. Braun is in satisfactory condition, Altru Hospital spokeswoman Angie Laxdal said Wednesday.

Zimmel said authorities were not releasing the name of a third worker whom Willis shot at but missed.

Willis was given medical treatment at the scene and taken to Altru, where he was pronounced dead, Zimmel said.

Braun's 70-year-old father, Larry Friesz, who lives about 300 miles away in rural Flasher, said his daughter told him she expects to be hospitalized for up to four days.

Friesz said Wednesday that he was busy farming and hadn't had a chance to visit his daughter but had spoken with her briefly by phone. He said she didn't offer any details about what happened and he didn't have specifics about her injury.

Braun did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

Friesz said he is shocked by what happened.

"You always read about it," he said of such violent incidents. "But when it's your own kid, it's different."

Zimmel said police believe the airman fired only three shots before shooting himself. Police did not identify the handgun he used.

Amy Mehs, Willis' girlfriend who lives in Hatton, North Dakota, about 35 miles southwest of Grand Forks, was in tears when contacted by The Associated Press Tuesday afternoon.

"I really can't say anything right now because it's still under investigation," she said. "You guys will find out everything eventually."

Sean Willis of Nashville, Tennessee, said only that his son had been in the military for about three years and was originally from Springfield, Tennessee.

Sgt. David Dobrydney, a base spokesman, said he couldn't yet release any information about Willis due to Air Force regulations.

About 1,500 airmen are assigned to the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the military said. The base was home to air refueling tankers for 50 years until a round of military base closings and realignments took that away. The last tankers left in 2011 and the base has taken on an unmanned aircraft mission.

The 24-hour Wal-Mart store remained closed early Wednesday. Company spokesman Brian Nick said Wal-Mart hasn't decided when the store will reopen.

Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown said in a statement that the shooting shook the northeastern North Dakota city of about 55,000 people.

"It is not normal for us in Grand Forks," the mayor said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press


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