'Third-party vendor' shot 15, 1 fatally, at Tennessee Kroger before killing himself, police say

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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — The man who opened fire at a Tennessee supermarket was a "third-party vendor" who wounded 15 people — one fatally — before taking his own life, police said Friday.

The victims included 10 employees and five customers at a Kroger on New Byhalia Road in Collierville, a suburb about 30 miles east of downtown Memphis, city police Chief Dale Lane told reporters.

"Was he an employee? He was a third-party vendor for Kroger," Lane said of the suspected shooter, who was identified as a 29-year-old Uk Thang.

Investigators believe they know the motive, but Lane declined to immediately reveal what might have sparked Thursday's bloodshed.

"We have a pretty good picture now (of the motive) but that's not something that I'm ready to release at this point, we need to make sure that we don't do anything to compromise this investigation,” Lane told NBC News.

The carnage was unlike anything the chief said he's ever seen.

"We all came to the scene and all went into that building and so it's the worst thing that I've seen in 34 years," Lane said, describing a chaotic scene of people hiding in every corner of the store. "Coming out of, you know, like I said we were finding people all over the stores hidden. And in the freezers closets, you know, all over."

Before police could engage him, the suspected gunman died from what authorities said they believed was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The police chief praised workers and shoppers, alike, for their own lifesaving actions as soon as gunfire erupted.

"As we entered that building, it was very obvious they, the employees and even the customers, knew what to do — it was run, hide and fight. They secured themselves," Lane told reporters. "They did what they had to do until we could get in there to help them."

Collierville Alderman Maureen Fraser identified the victim in the shooting as friend Olivia King.

"I will miss her terribly," she said Thursday in a statement.

The lawmaker praised first responders whose "many years of training was put to the test today and they did an remarkable job, it could have been so much worse."

"Continue to pray for several others who were shot and are currently in surgery," Fraser added. "Pray for the health care providers. Pray for the Kroger employees. Pray for Collierville!"

For Collierville's 51,000 residents, Thursday afternoon will be a moment they will never forget, Mayor Stan Joyner said.

"This is, for the town of Collierville, I think going to be one of those 'where were you when' events," he told reporters on Friday. "That's something that's a reality."

Officials at Kroger, the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain, said in a statement Friday that they were "horrified and heartbroken over the senseless violence" that left a customer dead.

"In the hours since the shooting," the company added, "we’re learning of truly heroic acts that included associates, customers and first responders selflessly helping to protect and save others."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Shaquille Brewster and Molly Roecker reported from Collierville, Tennessee, and David K. Li, Juliette Arcodia and Doha Madani from New York.

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