COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — Police on Friday said the gunman in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store that killed one and injured 14 others was a third-party vendor for Kroger who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
They also identified the woman who died in the shooting as Olivia King.
Friends told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network, that King was a longtime resident of the area.
"She was just sweet," King's longtime friend David Fraser said.
"Kind, polite, thoughtful," added friend Maureen Fraser, standing beside him Thursday on the sidewalk near the blocked-off Kroger grocery store.
The Frasers said they had known King for years. She was from San Antonio and was widowed with three sons: one in the Navy, one in the Air Force and one who had just earned a doctorate, they said.
They said she attended Catholic Mass nearly every day and had previously worked as a financial secretary at a local school.
Police Chief Dale Lane said Friday that officials are "getting a clearer picture of what occurred" but did not confirm the shooter's motive. The suspect, who was found dead at the back of the store, was identified as Uk Thang, 29.
Of the 15 people who were shot, 10 were Kroger employees and five were customers, Lane said.
"Thankfully, our prayers were answered: We didn't lose anybody overnight," Lane said. "There's still some people battling, so continue to pray for them, as well."
On the front lawn of Collierville's town hall, around 100 locals gathered Friday to pray and mourn. Pastors, a rabbi, the Collierville mayor and the town's board of aldermen spoke from the entrance under letters spelling out "Collierville."
As prayers concluded, two women who were in the Kroger shopping at the time of the shooting took to the microphone to express their gratitude for the town's support. The two women, Sara Wiles and Hollie Skaggs, were strangers prior to the shooting, but have become close friends since the tragedy.
"It's been a trying few hours," Skaggs said between tears to the crowd. "I didn't know it before, but I do now. I told (Wiles) when we came out that she's my guardian angel. I'm just grateful for her. We ran, we hid, we heard everything."
The gunman acted alone and worked as a third-party vendor for Kroger, Lane said. Lane declined to name the gunman during a media briefing, saying he didn't "want to give him notoriety." But police later confirmed the shooter's identity. Kroger also confirmed the shooter was a third-party vendor.
"In the hours since the shooting, we’re learning of truly heroic acts that included associates, customers and first responders selflessly helping to protect and save others," Kroger said in a Friday statement. "We will remain forever grateful to the first responders who so bravely responded to protect our associates and customers."
The store will remain closed during the police investigation, though workers are still being paid, Kroger said.
Lane said the gunman had previous "minor charges," Lane said, but did not specify.
The shooting started at about 1:30 p.m. CDT Thursday at the Kroger in Collierville, about 30 miles east of Memphis. Police said they were immediately on scene and officers began making their way into the store to respond to what Lane called “the most horrific event that’s occurred in Collierville history.”
Local and federal law enforcement agencies responded; dozens of patrol cars, two tactical unit vehicles, and ambulances neighboring counties were on scene by 2 p.m.
"Our guys did not hesitate one minute," Collierville Fire Department Chief Buddy Billings said.
He added: "I've been in fire service for 44 years ... I've never been so proud of a group of people in my life, in my whole career."
Workers hid in freezers and hunkered down in locked offices. One store employee was rescued from the roof, Lane said.
Witnesses, both shoppers and employees, who trickled out of the Kroger on Thursday described hearing what they thought were balloons popping before the reality of the situation became clear. Police escorted a crowd of roughly 40 to the center of the parking lot to take statements. Outside of the crime scene tape, family members of shoppers and workers waited to find their loved ones.
Brignetta Dickerson, an employee of more than three years, led a group of employees and customers toward safety by weaving through the store, with the shooter not far behind her group.
"I've been through everything," she said Thursday afternoon. "This right here took the cake."
In their own words: Victims describe confusion, then a desperate scramble to flee the store
Kroger issued a statement Thursday expressing sorrow for the employees and customers affected, as well as gratitude for the first responders.
Kroger, which has nearly 2,800 stores nationwide, has attempted in recent years to minimize potential gun violence in its stores. In 2019, the chain announced it would prohibit the open carry of firearms in its stores. It's the country's largest supermarket chain in terms of revenue.
This event marks the second mass shooting in a year at one of the company's stores. In late March, a gunman opened fire at King Sooper's store in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people. King Sooper's is part of the Kroger company.
Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY.
Micaela Watts is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal, she can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Kroger shooting in Collierville: Gunman ID'd; Olivia King named victim