POSTED: 04:03 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 09:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012
OLD BRIDGE, N.J. >> An ex-Marine wearing military clothing opened fire at a New Jersey supermarket early this morning, killing two of his co-workers and himself as other terrified store employees hid in the back, authorities said.
The 23-year-old man left his shift at a Pathmark store in Old Bridge Township around 3:30 a.m. and returned a half-hour later to the closed store with a handgun and an AK-47 assault rifle, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said. About 12 to 14 workers were still there.
The man fired at least 16 rounds from the rifle at the first workers he saw, killing 18-year-old Christina LoBrutto and a 24-year-old Bryan Breen as other workers hid, officials said.
"I do not believe that they were specifically targeted. I believe everybody in the store was a target," said Kaplan.
The gunman then killed himself, said Kaplan.
He did not release the suspect's name, but a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation identified him as Terence Tyler, an ex-Marine who was discharged in 2010. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because his agency is not in charge of the investigation.
Tyler, an infantryman from Brooklyn, never served overseas, said Marine spokeswoman Capt. Kendra Motz. She wouldn't comment on the circumstances of his discharge.
At the top of a Facebook page for a Terence Tyler who says he served in the Marines the same dates as the shooter has this slogan: "Be optimistic. All the people you hate are going to eventually die."
Tyler moved to an apartment near the Pathmark earlier this summer, neighbors said. Co-workers said he had been only working at the store for a few weeks.
Pathmark worker Miranda Miranda said she steered clear of Tyler. "The way he looked at me, he gave me an uneasy vibe," she said.
Miranda had regularly worked the overnight shift on Thursday but said LoBrutto agreed to take over the shift for her a few weeks ago.
"Right now, all I know is what keeps coming into my mind," she said. "That could've been me."
Tyler spent the July 4 weekend drinking at Jersey shore bars with Manase Acheantong, who said Tyler was his friend's cousin.
"We went out. We had drinks. He was a normal kid. He didn't start no fights. He didn't seem crazy," said Acheantong, 25, of Old Bridge.
John Niccollai, president of a foodworkers union that represents some store employees, said Pathmark officials and workers told him the gunman wore military clothing and had just punched out for the night before coming back into the store and opening fire.
Many of the employees escaped gunfire, Niccollai said, when an assistant manager, "who I would view as a hero," helped many workers to get out of the store through the back door.
Kaplan and police walked through the shooting scene at the supermarket Friday morning, with two long windows in the front completely shot through. Police kept onlookers away; a number of vehicles were in the parking lot outside, along with police cars.
The store and its parking lot were closed.
A spokeswoman for Pathmark's parent company, Montvale-based Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. said Friday the company is "deeply saddened" by the shooting and is cooperating with investigators.
"We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and our appreciation to local law enforcement," spokeswoman Mary Connor said.
Old Bridge is a bedroom community of about 65,000 just across the Raritan Bay from New York City's Staten Island.
A vigil was planned today at Old Bridge School for LoBrutto and Breen, who both graduated from the school. LoBrutto, who was a horn player in the school band, graduated this year, Schools Superintendent Timothy Brennan said. Breen graduated in 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Ruano knew Christina from school. "She was a really bubbly girl," Ruano said. "She was silly. She was sweet."
Associated Press writers Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J., Geoff Mulvihill and Larry Rosenthal in Trenton, N.J., and Julio Cortez in Old Bridge contributed to this report.