Young mother, family matriarch and doting father ID’d as victims killed in Arkansas grocery store shooting

Updated

A 23-year-old nurse, mother to a 10-month-old girl, is among the four people killed in Friday’s mass shooting at an Arkansas grocery store.

Callie Weems died when rounds and fragments from a suspect’s long gun struck 13, including two officers who had non-life-threatening injuries, at a Mad Butcher grocery store Friday morning in Fordyce, a small town about 70 miles south of Little Rock.

Family members confirmed that the two others killed in the mass shooting were Shirley Taylor, 63, and Roy Burton Sturgis, 50. Interviews and an obituary helped shed some light on the lives they lived.

On Saturday night, Arkansas State Police said a fourth victim, Ellen Shrum, 81, had died. Her background wasn’t immediately apparent.

One of four survivors of the attack who remained hospitalized Saturday evening was said to be in critical condition, police said. That patient, described as a woman, was not identified.

Callie Weems

Upon news of the attack, Helen Browning tracked her daughter's phone to the Dallas County Medical Center, where Weems worked, and assumed she had volunteered to help victims on her day off.

“She’s there,” Browning said she told herself. “She’s helping out.”

But people kept calling, so she went to the site of the violence to investigate, Browning said in interviews with NBC News and NBC affiliate KARK of Little Rock.

“My best friend was standing right there and I said, ‘Kristie, tell me my baby’s OK.’ And she said, ‘I can’t,’” Browning told the Arkansas station.

Weems had been shopping at Mad Butcher when she was shot, family members said. The loss was incomprehensibly unjust, Browning said, because Weems created a lot of goodwill.

“You can stab her in the back 17 times,” Browning said, “and she’d still help you.”

Stepfather Bruce Grice described Weems as “the sweetest girl.”

“Always worried about other people,” he said.

Browning, also a nurse, is now grappling with how she will raise her granddaughter, Ivy, whom she said was Weems’ “saving grace.”

“And now she gets to be mine too,” Browning told KARK.

Col. Mike Hagar with the Arkansas State Police said at a Sunday news conference that Weems was killed while she was administering care to other victims of the shooting.

She “used her training as a nurse” to give aid to other victims “and then became a victim herself,” Hagar said Sunday, adding that it was “one of the most selfless acts I’ve ever seen.”

Shirley Taylor

Death and injury on Friday wrought mental anguish and also left some families without the souls who power them each day. Shirley Taylor, 63, was described as a matriarch dedicated to the multigenerational family stead in nearby Chambersville.

She singlehandedly took care of her husband, described by daughter Angela Atchley as a severe diabetic. She looked after her own mother. She crocheted. She helped raise her grandchildren. She had a garden. And she often cooked for the family.

“Just the smell of food kind of makes me sick,” Atchley said. “I haven’t ate.”

Asked what the world should know about Taylor, Atchley said she had love for everyone, but always put her family first.

“She was the most hardworking woman I’ve ever known in my life,” the daughter said.

Roy Burton Sturgis

Family confirmed that Sturgis was among Friday’s fatalities. His obituary, published by Benton Funeral Home, where a funeral was scheduled for Friday, said he was pronounced at Dallas County Medical Center.

He lived in nearby Kingsland, the obituary states, and daughter Hanna was his pride and joy.

On a virtual wall of tributes linked in the obituary, some friends of the Sturgis family described him as a man of bravery, courage and sacrifice.

Family friend Marsha Helberg Waddill described Sturgis as an everyday hero. He was “always courteous and brave enough to speak out to any playground bully that crossed his or your path,” she wrote.

He is survived by his daughter, sisters Angelia Surgis and Sarah Sturgis, brother Eddie Ray Sturgis, stepson Braydon Pennington, and Braydon’s daughter, CourtLeigh, according to the obituary.

No known motive

A motive in the Friday-morning shooting, which appears to have begun in the parking lot, remains unclear. Law enforcement officials briefed on the shooting told NBC News on Saturday that there are no indications of any sort of extremism as a possible motive.

Travis Eugene Posey, 44, of New Edinburg, a community about 11 miles east of Fordyce, was arrested in connection with the shooting and booked at the Ouachita County Detention Center. He was treated earlier Friday for non-life-threatening injuries after exchanging gunfire with officers.

Posey will be charged with four counts of capital murder, with additional charges pending, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety said in a news release.

Not a lot has emerged about the suspect’s background, and calls to people listed online as possible relatives, as well as to phone numbers associated with his address, were not answered, went to disconnected accounts, or have not been returned.

Hagar said Sunday that the suspect’s criminal history is very limited, if it exists at all.

The suspect is listed by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a self-employed trucker.

Video that was verified by NBC News but does not reveal what transpired beforehand shows a man in a parking lot firing a long gun. Some rounds appeared to be directed at vehicles.

Grocery store closed for now

The grocery store said in a statement Saturday that it was “shocked and deeply saddened over the senseless act of violence.”

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all those affected,” the store posted on Facebook. “We’re truly grateful to our local law enforcement and first responders who arrived on the scene to secure the area and apprehend the suspect. Their swift and courageous actions helped prevent further harm. We can’t thank them enough for their dedication and service.”

The store will remain closed as the investigation continues, the Mad Butcher said. Employees will continue to be paid.

The attack follows a mass shooting in Oakland, California, where 15 people were wounded during Juneteenth events on Wednesday. That same day, seven people were injured after a shooting in Philadelphia, officials said.

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