A New Jersey supermarket employee who opened fire early Friday morning, killing two co-workers before taking his own life, has been identified by media sources as an ex-Marine who had clocked out for the night only to return wearing military clothing and armed with an assault rifle and a handgun.
The death toll could have been much worse, suggested Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan, whose office is now handling media information in the case.
Kaplan was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that about 12 to 14 workers were in the Old Bridge, N.J., store when the shooting occurred at about 4 a.m. Two people were killed as workers scrambled for cover.
“I do not believe that they were specifically targeted,” Kaplan was quoted as saying of the victims. “I believe everybody in the store was a target.”
He said the gunman seemed to be firing indiscriminately, getting off at least 16 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle before he killed himself.
The identities of the victims were reported by NJ.com as Cristina LoBrutto, 18, a recent high school graduate, and Bryan Breen, 24. Both NJ.com and the Associated Press identified the gunman as ex-Marine Terence Tyler, 23, although law enforcement officials have not yet formally released his identity.
A representative for the U.S. Marine Corps told the Los Angeles Times Friday that the military branch had no information about the shooting. But U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Richard K. Ulsh said he could confirm that a man with the same name and age served for two years before being discharged in 2010.
The Marine was based in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the time he enlisted and was primarily stationed at the Marine base at Twentynine Palms. Tyler never served outside the country. His occupational specialty was listed as rifleman and he received a National Defense Service Medal during his career, according to Ulsh. Details about his discharge were not provided.
The Associated Press interviewed the president of a food workers union that represents some of the employees of the New Jersey supermarket.
John Niccollai told the the news service that the gunman had clocked out for the night, returned to the store wearing military clothing and began shooting. Niccollai praised an assistant manager who helped workers leave through a back door during the gunfire.
“I would view [that assistant manager] as a hero,” Niccollai said.