The suspected shooter is also dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Authorities are investigating the shooting as a possible workplace violence incident, ABC News has learned. Kroger company officials did not immediately respond to ABC News questions about the suspected shooter’s employment status.
Police said there were “very serious” injuries among those taken to the hospital. At least 14 patients have visited local hospitals. Five of those patients are in critical condition, while one has been discharged, hospital staff confirmed to ABC News.
One victim was not shot but suffered from an anxiety attack, police said.
Family identified the victim killed as 70-year-old Olivia King, whom they believe had gone to church for daily mass Thursday morning before shopping at the store.
“Our family is devastated by this senseless act of violence. We ask that you pray for the repose of the soul of our mother, Olivia,” one of her sons, Wes King, told ABC News. “We also ask everyone for their prayers for all families and friends affected by the events today, as well as for God’s mercy on the shooter and his family. Thank you.”
All 44 employees at the store at the time of the shooting have been accounted for, Collierville Police Department Chief Dale Lane said at a press briefing Thursday evening, noting that the crime scene was “significant.”
Some hid in freezers and locked offices when the gunfire broke out at about 1:30 p.m. local time, police said. One employee fled to the roof and was escorted to safety by police.
Brignetta Dickerson, a cashier, told Memphis ABC affiliate WATN that she ran into a back room with customers. The cashier said the gunman came in shooting, striking an employee in the head, a customer in the stomach and an employee in the cheek. She said the gunman then left and continued to open fire.
“All of a sudden, I went through the receiving department … and here he comes right behind us and start shooting and he kept shooting and shooting and shooting,” she told WATN.
Tawana French said she was heading into the Kroger Thursday afternoon when she encountered people, including children, running out of the store.
“A split second later, I hear gunfire,” French told Linsey Davis in an interview on ABC News Live Prime Thursday night. “I ran, ran, ran. Before I could get to my car, which was not very far at all, I heard even more gunfire. Rapid succession, just pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.”
“I just wanted to get to a safe place,” said French, who immediately got in her car and drove away.
Employee Jean Prost said she was working in the produce section at the back of the store when she heard five loud pops that she initially thought were the sound of a co-worker popping balloons.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, she’s busting a lot of balloons.’ And I looked up and I see people running, and I thought, ‘Oh — something is happening, or they wouldn’t be running,'” said Prost.
Prost darted out a side door and hustled around the back of the building with a customer, finding a “little brick corner” in which to hide. The gunshots were so loud that she was sure the shooter was firing his weapon outside, she said.
“I’m thinking, ‘There’s nowhere to hide.’ You’re just out in the open and you’re at his mercy and he could just shoot you,” said Prost. “I was so scared I couldn’t even run.”
Police did not have a breakdown on how many of the victims were employees.
The suspected shooter’s car remains in the store parking lot, police said. Resources were brought in to safely inspect the vehicle. Police plan to carry out search warrants at several locations, but Lane couldn’t divulge any information on where.
There are no additional threats at this time, he said.
“This situation is going to drive fear, but we are a resilient community,” Lane said.
Collierville is about 30 miles from Memphis.
Memphis police said its officers are helping secure the scene. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also on the scene.
A Kroger spokesperson said in a statement, “The entire Kroger family offers our thoughts, prayers and support to the individuals and families of the victims during this difficult time.”
“We are cooperating with local law enforcement, who have secured the store and parking lot. The store will remain closed while the police investigation continues, and we have initiated counseling services for our associates,” the statement continued.
ABC News’ Jack Date, Luke Barr, Aaron Katersky, Will McDuffie, Nick Cirone and Kendall Coughlin contributed to this report.
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