FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA/AP) — The 55-year-old man who stalked and then fatally shot a grandmother and her 1-year-old grandson inside a Palm Beach County Publix Thursday had been threatening to kill people, including children, on his Facebook page but no one reported him, a Florida sheriff said Friday.
Timothy J. Wall, 55, had been making the threats for some time before he walked into a Publix, stalked his victims in the produce aisle before first shooting the child and then the woman before killing himself, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his detectives said.
Maj. Talal Masri, the lead detective, said the 69-year-old woman pushed her grandson into the store shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, using a cart shaped like a race car so toddlers can play while the adult shops. Authorities have not released the victims’ names, citing Marsy’s Law that allows survivors to block their release.
About 20 minutes later, Wall arrived at the store on a red scooter. He and his ex-wife had previously owned a dry cleaner in the shopping center, state records show, but it is unknown when it closed. Video shows he had been inside both the Publix and a nearby drugstore earlier in the morning and had approached people but then turned away, Masri said.
This time, Wall entered the Publix using a golf putter as a walking stick. He walked around for a few minutes before entering the produce section, where the woman was shopping with her grandson still in the cart.
He followed them for about three minutes before he pulled a handgun and shot the child, Masri said. The woman jumped on him and Wall’s gun briefly jammed. She fell to the floor and he shot her and then himself. All died at the scene.
The shooting sent dozens of employees and customers fleeing the store, but no other injuries were reported.
Detectives have found no connection between Wall and the woman.
“The real sad part of this, other than the fact two people are dead, is that there was a chance this could be stopped. You know why? The reason is he’s on Facebook he has said ‘I wanna kill people and children,'” Sheriff Bradshaw said.
The sheriff went on to say this tragedy could have been avoided if people came forward with information regarding Wall’s social media posts.
“He’s got friends obviously they saw that. His ex-wife said he’s been acting strange, he thinks he’s being followed, he’s paranoid. You think a damn soul told us about that? No, and if it sounds like I’m angry I am.”
The ex-wife’s family told the Palm Beach Post she did try to get Wall help, but no one listened.
“He had mental issues. He wasn’t taking care of himself,” said Maia Knight, Wall’s former sister-in-law. “My sister was going to the courthouse, going to police, telling everyone he needs help. My sister was trying to help him but didn’t know how.”
The Associated Press isn’t naming the ex-wife to protect her privacy. She did not return a call Friday seeking comment.
Under Florida’s so-called Red Flag Law, a law enforcement agency can seek an order from a judge to seize the firearms of anyone shown to be a danger to themselves or others and hold them for a year. That can be extended if an agency shows the person is still a danger.
It was enacted in 2018 by the Republican-led Legislature shortly after a former student with a history of mental and emotional problems killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, less than an hour’s drive from Thursday’s shooting.
Facebook also allows users to report troubling posts and will forward them to law enforcement.
According to Palm Beach County court records, Wall had been in financial and personal disarray for years before the shooting.
Earlier this year, Wall had declared bankruptcy. In his filing, he listed $6,000 in assets, including $9 in checking, $18 in savings, $4,100 in a stock trading account, $740 in bitcoin and a $300 gun. He said he earned $24,000 last year as a laborer working through a temp agency and his mode of transportation was the $600 scooter he rode to the killings.
Meanwhile, he had accumulated more than $215,000 in debts, most of it owed on the home his ex-wife now owns, the bankruptcy file shows. She divorced him in 2018 and he had signed over their house to her in 2019.