COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — A gunman who killed one person and wounded 14 others in a Tennessee grocery store worked in a sushi business at the store and was the son of refugees from Burma who had settled in Nashville, a family friend said Friday.
The shooter was identified by police as UK Thang, a “third-party vendor” who police said worked at the Kroger in Collierville on a daily basis. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound within a couple of minutes of police arriving at the Kroger in the upscale suburb outside of Memphis.
The victims included 10 employees and five customers, police said. On Friday, some of the wounded were still in critical condition and fighting for their lives, Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane said at a morning news conference.
Lane identified the woman who was killed as Olivia King. Friends told The Commercial Appeal that she was a widowed mother of three.
On Facebook, one of King’s sons, Wes King, wrote that he had spoken to the trauma surgeon and learned his mother was shot in the chest.
“They tried to save her at the hospital to no avail,” he wrote. “I apologize for the graphic details, but this type of crime needs to stop being glossed over and sanitized. No one deserves this.”
Police searched the shooter’s home Thursday and removed electronic devices.
“We all want to know the why,” Lane said of the shooter’s motive. “But today, less than 24 hours [after the shooting], we’re not ready to tell you that.”
The shooter’s parents live in Nashville and are part of a community of Christian refugees from Burma who have settled there, according to Aung Kyaw, a friend of the family who went to pray with them at their home on Friday.
Kyaw said Thang had a sushi business that operated inside the Collierville Kroger.
Kyaw said Thang’s parents were “very upset” about their son’s involvement and were praying for all the people involved.
“His mom is very sad,” Kyaw said. “She’s tired.”
Kyaw came to the door of the parents’ home at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Antioch area of Nashville. On Friday morning there were cars spilling out into the street, and more than a dozen pairs of shoes were scattered on the landing outside the door.
Kyaw said he did not know the son personally.
The shooter, acting alone, did not appear to target anyone specifically as he rampaged through the building on a sunny Thursday afternoon, police said. The entire shooting was over within minutes as first responders swarmed the scene.
Lane said the outcome could have been worse. Police received a call around 1:30 p.m. about the shooting and arrived almost immediately, finding multiple people with gunshot wounds upon entering the building, he said.
He said officers of every rank ran into the building and were joined by off-duty firefighters.
“Nobody wants to go into that scene, I can promise you,” Lane said. “I mean, there were bloody people running out of that building, and there was not one blue uniform that hesitated, from the bottom all the way up. We’re in there trying to help.”
Jason Lusk, 39, had just left a tool store beside Kroger when he heard some women screaming in the parking lot about a shooter. He didn’t see the gunman, but heard 10 to 15 rounds in rapid succession at the grocery store.
“It sounded like they were directly over my head,” he said, adding he could feel the concussion of every shot and knew the weapon was powerful.
“As the firing started, I dove in front of my vehicle onto the ground to provide the most cover for myself and instructed the people around me panicking, trying to get into the cars, not to get in their cars, but to actually hide,” he said.
Earlier this year, Tennessee became the latest state to allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns without first clearing a state-level background check and training. The measure was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee over objections from some law enforcement groups and gun control advocates concerned the measure would possibly lead to more gun violence.
Lee said Friday that the new law strengthened penalties that come into play when violent crime occurs.
“The constitutional carry bill applies to law-abiding citizens,” he said. “What happened yesterday was criminal activity, violent criminal gun activity. And those are separate issues. The constitutional carry piece of legislation we passed, in fact, strengthened penalties for violent gun criminals, and we need to continue to find ways to attack violence and violent crime and we’ll keep doing that.”
The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, issued a statement Friday confirming that the shooter was a third-party vendor but declined to provide additional details.
The Collierville store will be closed until further notice but will continue to provide pay and other support to employees, the statement said.