Updated at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday
A 31-year-old Hempstead man, Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, was charged with one count of second-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder Wednesday after he allegedly entered the West Hempstead Stop & Shop the day before and started shooting employees in the manager's office, according to officials.
Nassau County police captured the suspect in Hempstead after a massive search Tuesday afternoon.
"I want make this message loud and clear," Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said at a Wednesday morning news conference. "If you engage in this behavior in Nassau County, be prepared to face the full force of the law."
At press time, police were still searching for a .380 caliber pistol that DeWitt Wilson allegedly used. He will appear in court Friday and faces 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.
Around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, police said, DeWitt Wilson shot and killed 49-year-old employee Ray Wishropp, a father from Valley Stream, and wounded two others, including 26-year-old and 50-year old victims, sending surrounding school districts and homes throughout the area into lockdown. DeWitt Wilson had met with Stop & Shop's manager and requested a transfer to another shop about an hour earlier, according to NCPD Commanding Officer Stephen Fitzpatrick.
"He left the building without any violence or anything else being said," Fitzpatrick said. "Forty minutes later, he returned to the building and you know the rest."
Fitzpatrick added that a female colleague of Wilson told management that he was flirting with her, made unwanted advances and gave her unwanted gifts in recent months. Police also said that DeWitt Wilson had a history of mental illness.
“Gabriel was a troubled employee,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was having disputes with other workers and threatening them, and was brought into the management offices several times.”
DeWitt Wilson had previously lived in Long Beach, in a Market Street apartment, before moving six years ago to Covert Street in Hempstead. Wilson has a known alias, "Jibreel," and he was previously arrested for assault in Baltimore County, Md. in 2006, according to the NCPD's Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence squad. He had worked at a Stop & Shop in Long Beach from 2017 to 2019 before he transferred to the West Hempstead store.
Wishropp had children at South High School in Valley Stream. The school principal, Maureen Henry, sent this message to students and parents Tuesday evening: "It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you that the victim was the father of two of South's students. I ask that you keep this family in your thoughts and prayers. I will let you know what you can do to support the family in this terrible time."
State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages wrote on Facebook, "I am disheartened to find out that one of the victims of today's active shooting is a resident of our district. We have lost a valuable member of our community. I join their family and friends in mourning this beloved community member."
John Durso, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 338, which represents the Stop & Shop workers, said in a statement, “We are devastated by the tragic shooting at the Stop & Shop in West Hempstead. Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and all those, including workers and customers, who witnessed today’s horrifying events. Our priority is and always will be the physical and mental well-being of our members."
Union representatives were on site to ensure workers received care, including counseling, he said.
The Stop & Shop is to remain closed through Saturday, according to its website.
Nassau police had urged local residents to remain indoors Tuesday, as the shooter was armed and considered dangerous. Among the school districts on lockdown were West Hempstead, Franklin Square, Sewanhaka and Valley Stream North, as well as Sacred Heart Academy in nearby Hempstead.
Michael Corleone, owner of Kayo Boxing, one of the neighboring businesses, said he immediately heard the shooting. “I wasn’t sure if it was fireworks or a car backfiring, but the next thing you know, I heard ambulances and police cars rolling up,” Corleone said. “I only had a few people in my gym, but I wasn’t frightened. We’re all surprised because this is a good neighborhood.”
Prince Mapp, of Uniondale, arrived at the scene shortly after the incident through the use of the smartphone app, Citizen, which allows users to read updates about ongoing reports and broadcast live video. An engineer who is also the head of community and culture at Citizen, Mapp recorded a livestream of the area shortly after the shooting.
“It’s easier to get a gun than it is to get a job,” Mapp told the Herald. “We’ve got to do better in restricting these gun laws.”
Mapp had just returned from Minneapolis, where he had joined in the protesting of the Daunte Wright killing and the George Floyd trial yesterday. “I just left a war zone, and to come home to see this today on Long Island is devastating,” Mapp said. “We don’t expect [things] like this to happen right in our backyard. I’m hoping that someone of stature that’s on the far-right would be willing to sit down at the table with those on the left and come to a compromise with restricting people from getting guns so easily.”
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said DeWitt Wilson was apprehended quickly upon the arrival of police officers at Terrace Avenue in Hempstead. “The NYPD has been very helpful with us in gathering information,” Ryder said. “We will also be speaking with the FBI and the U.S. attorney general.”
Ryder also noted that, historically, April has been a month of gun violence. He said that he had discussed the importance of preparation with his officers leading up to this month.
“Patriots Day, Boston Marathon, Virginia Tech shooting, Waco, Texas, Oklahoma City, Hitler’s birthday, Columbine, Oscala High School ... we are aware of what this month is and we’ve increased our patrols,” Ryder said.
“Over the past several months, we in Nassau County have been watching on our television screen active shooters devastating our communities,” said County Executive Laura Curran during a news conference on Tuesday. “Today that reality came home in Nassau County. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this.”
The supermarket was full of a couple hundred shoppers at the time of the shooting, Ryder said.
More to follow.
Jim Bernstein and Peter Belfiore contributed to this story.