A 23-year-old man, who neighbors said was a recent veteran of the Afghanistan war, shot and killed two co-workers at the Pathmark supermarket in Old Bridge early Friday morning, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said.
Kaplan, who did not release the names of the alleged gunman or his two victims, said that all three were working an overnight shift at the store when the suspect left at about 3:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, at about 4 a.m., he returned and "entered the store, firing," Kaplan said, apparently not targeting anyone in particular.
"Two of the employees were shot and killed," Kaplan said. "The others were able to hide and escape." He said that 12 to 14 employees were in the store at the time of the shooting.
The two victims were described by Kaplan as an 18-year-old female and a 24-year-old male, both residents of Old Bridge.
Kaplan did not confirm media reports that the alleged shooter was wearing body armor or had a military background. Kaplan did say that the alleged shooter was armed with an AK-47, multiple ammunition magazines and a handgun and that police believe the AK-47 was the source of the fatal shots. He said it appeared that as many as 16 shots had been fired in all and noted that windows near the entrance of the store had been shattered.
Residents at the London Terrace apartments, behind the Old Bridge Pathmark, watched hours later as police detectives left the apartment complex with a couple that neighbors said were the parents of the alleged shooter.
One woman at the complex told Patch the man had recently returned from military duty in Afghanistan and moved into the apartment complex.
His military background was also referenced by Manase Acheampong, 25, of Old Bridge, who said he was an acquaintance of the alleged guman's cousin. Acheampong said he had met the alleged gunman twice, once last winter and once on July 4. "The two times that I hung out with him, a normal kid, we just went out for a few drinks," Acheampong said.
Among the neighbors interviewed by Patch at London Terrace was a young man who said he worked with the suspect and the two shooting victims at Pathmark. He said both victims were cashiers at the supermarket and that the 18-year-old woman was new on the job.
One man, who said he was a friend of the family, told Patch the parents had made reference to the suspect having been upset by an earlier workplace incident of some kind, though it was not clear whether this was related to his having left his overnight shift early Friday, shortly before the shooting, as described by Kaplan.
Swat teams from Middlesex County and several nearby townships, arrived at the shooting scene minutes after the incident and early morning commuters and residents awoke to sirens, flashing lights and traffic disruptions. A park-and-ride area at the plaza is heavily used by commuters traveling on NJ Transit buses.
Carolyn Anders, who had stepped out onto her balcony to watch the commotion before police gestured her back inside later walked to the Pathmark, where she said she frequently shops.
Her toddler grandson in hand, Anders said that guns are "out of control in America" and, apparently referring to the shooters military background, added, "Why can't our administration do something to take care of our soldiers?"
Kaplan said she believed she knew the shooting victims, from having shopped in the store. "It's horrible," she said. "An 18-year-old girl lost her life."
The heavy police presence continued at the scene hours after the incident. Shortly after 10 a.m., a blue hatchback was seen being towed from the plaza with a police escort.
WPIX is reporting that the alleged gunman was reportedly wearing body armor and was armed with a shotgun, killed two employees, according to a report published on the WPIX website.
According to WPIX's sources, the victims were inside the store restocking shelves at the time of the shooting, which was two hours before opening at 6 a.m. The gunman then barricaded himself at the back of the store, and officials on the scene say the gunman killed himself.
NBC 4 New York reported in a live broadcast at 9 a.m. that according to a cousin, the alleged gunman is an ex-Marine who had been living in a nearby apartment complex for only a month.
NBC 4 New York cited published reports that he may have been dressed in camoflauge, that he may have been working the overnight shift, and that he reportedly left the building to retrieve a gun and AK47 from his car. When he returned he shot two people dead — including one 18 year-old — and then himself.
The incident reportedly happened around 4 a.m. At 7:30 a.m., there were still police officers in SWAT gear at the plaza, near TGI Friday's. Observers at the scene could see there were large holes in two supermarket windows.