National News

Gunman Who Killed 2 at Louisiana Gun Store Fired 32 Rounds, Sheriff Says

Posted February 22, 2021 10:16 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2021 10:41 a.m. EST

In a span of less than two minutes, a gunman who killed two people in a rampage at a gun store near New Orleans on Saturday fired all 32 rounds in his possession before store employees fatally shot him in the parking lot, officials said Monday.

The gunman, Joshua Williams, had gone to the Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie, Louisiana, to buy ammunition, but when store employees told him he could not bring a loaded gun in the store, he refused to comply and soon began shooting, Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III of Jefferson Parish said at a news conference.

An intense exchange of gunfire erupted between Williams and seven store employees, two of whom were hospitalized for gunshot wounds and later released, the authorities said. When the shooting ended, investigators recovered nearly 100 shell casings and 10 guns, three of which belonged to Williams, according to the sheriff, who Monday released portions of security camera footage of the attack.

“I believe, without a doubt, he was looking to shoot more people until he ran out of bullets,” Lopinto said. “I don’t know what was going through Joshua Williams’ mind.”

The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office identified the two people who were killed by Williams as Veronica Billiot, 59, of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, a customer; and Herbert Fischbach, 47, of Jefferson, Louisiana, an employee at the store.

The authorities said Williams, a 27-year-old resident of New Orleans, had a permit to carry a concealed firearm, but they did not reveal what kind of gun he had used in the shooting.

Investigators said that Williams had been accompanied at the store by his brother and his brother’s two children, ages 7 and 9. They said that the brother was cooperating with authorities, who were uncertain about what had driven the gunman to open fire.

“Basically, he said his brother flipped out,” Lopinto said.

A woman who identified herself as Williams’ aunt said in a Facebook post Monday that Williams had struggled to control his anger. She cited his race and poor upbringing as contributing factors to his state of mind.

“He was sadly out of control of a situation because of a big time anger control issue,” the woman, Janice Hutchinson, wrote. “He was a victim of many social ills that plague too many young Black men who were born and raised in poverty in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.”

Investigators did not say Monday whether race was a motive in the shooting, which they said began while a class on concealed carry permits was being taught on the second floor of the gun store. The building also houses a shooting range.

“Those employees did not come to work looking for a fight that day,” Lopinto said. “They put their lives at risk in order to make sure that they could protect others.”

Williams entered the store at about 3 p.m. Saturday and looked at ammunition with his brother for about seven minutes, the authorities said. Store employees noticed that Williams had a gun with an extended magazine protruding from it, according to the sheriff, who said an employee told Williams that he was required to empty the ammunition or leave the gun in his car.

Williams begrudgingly began to head toward the exit, but when he reached the door he propped it open with his body and fired a shot into the air, the authorities said. Then, he aimed his gun at Billiot, the security camera footage shows.

He fired at least two times at Billiot, the sheriff said, adding that Billiot had been standing near the counter at the entrance.

Efforts to reach Billiot’s family Monday were unsuccessful, but her sister Linda Billiot told the news website Nola.com that Veronica Billiot, a military housing property manager and mother of three, had gone to the store to pick up a gun that she had bought for personal protection.

“It’s shocking — I’m not processing it,” Linda Billiot told the website, adding that her sister “had no clue” of the escalating danger.

Next, Williams exchanged gunfire with the store’s employees, hitting one of them, a man, in the arm before briefly exiting the store with one of his brother’s children, the sheriff said. Williams then reentered the business and fired his gun twice at Fischbach, who had taken cover, and struck him in the back once, authorities said.

In addition to working at the store, Fischbach, who went by the name Noah, worked with props and special effects in the film industry, drawing on his knowledge of firearms, his father said in an interview on the day of the shooting.

In the security camera footage, the sheriff said, Williams’ brother can be seen waving for Williams to leave the store. A subsequent clip shows Williams roaming in a hallway inside the building. A third male store employee was shot in the leg by Williams in another exchange before the gunman was killed in the front parking lot, the authorities said.

“Again,” Lopinto said, “I don’t know if I can ever tell you why it occurred.”

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