A 23-year-old man, described by neighbors as a recently discharged military veteran, shot and killed two co-workers before taking his own life at the Pathmark supermarket in Old Bridge early Friday morning, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.
Kaplan, who did not release the names of the alleged gunman or his two victims, said that all three were working an overnight shift at the store, when the suspect left at about 3:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, at about 4 a.m., he returned and "entered the store, firing his weapon," Kaplan said, but apparently not targeting anyone in particular. The shooting ended when the gunman, "we believe, killed himself," the prosecutor said.
"Two of the employees were shot and killed," Kaplan said. "The others were able to hide and escape." He said that 12 to 14 employees were in the store at the time of the shooting.
The two victims were described by Kaplan as an 18-year-old female and a 24-year-old male, both residents of Old Bridge. The victims were later identified as Cristina LoBrutto, a recent graduate of Old Bridge High School and Bryan Breen of Laurence Harbor in Old Bridge and the shooter as Terence Tyler, a Marine veteran, who did not serve overseas.
Kaplan did not confirm media reports that the alleged shooter was wearing body armor or had a military background but said that he was armed with an AK-47, multiple ammunition magazines and a handgun and that police believed the AK-47 was the source of the fatal shots. He said it appeared that as many as 16 shots had been fired in all and noted that windows near the entrance of the store had been shattered.
Dragan Jovanovic, general manager at a nearby Staples, said he found service roads to his store blocked off when he arrived for work at 7 a.m. and went instead to the McDonalds on Rt. 9, where he encountered several supermarket employees and other witnesses to the shooting.
Jovanovic, 46, of Union County, said they told him the shooter "was terminated last night, during the shift, and he came back, like, an hour later. The door were locked. He threw a shopping cart through the window and started shooting." One employee told Jovanovic he "heard a loud bang and somebody shouted, 'Everybody run to the back of the store.'"
Residents at the London Terrace apartments, behind the Old Bridge Pathmark, watched hours later as police detectives left the apartment complex with a couple neighbors described as the parents of the alleged shooter.
One woman at the complex said Tyler had recently returned from service in the U.S. Marines and moved into the apartment complex.
A Star-Ledger report on nj.com described angry postings on Tyler's Twitter account.
His military background was also referenced by Manase Acheampong, 25, of Old Bridge, who said he was an acquaintance of the alleged guman's cousin. Acheampong said he had met the alleged gunman twice, once last winter and once on July 4. "The two times that I hung out with him, a normal kid, we just went out for a few drinks," Acheampong said.
Among the neighbors interviewed by Patch at London Terrace was a young man who said he worked with the suspect and the two shooting victims at Pathmark. He said both victims were cashiers at the supermarket and that the 18-year-old woman was new on the job.
Several neighbors who watched police escorting a man and woman from the apartment complex said they recognized them as the parents of the suspected gunman. One man, who said he was a friend of the family, told Patch they had made reference to him having been upset by an earlier workplace incident of some kind, though it was not clear whether this was related to his having left his overnight shift early Friday, shortly before the shooting, as described by Kaplan.
Swat teams from Middlesex County and several nearby townships, arrived at the shooting scene minutes after the incident and early morning commuters and residents awoke to sirens, flashing lights and traffic disruptions. A park-and-ride area at the plaza is heavily used by commuters traveling on NJ Transit buses.
Carolyn Anders, who had stepped out onto her balcony to watch the commotion before police gestured her back inside later walked to the Pathmark, where said she frequently shops.
Her toddler grandson in hand, Anders said that guns were "out of control in America" and, apparently referring to the shooters military background, added, "Why can't our administration do something to take care of our soldiers?"
Kaplan said she believed she knew the shooting victims, from having shopped in the store. "Its horrible," she said. "An eighteen year old girl lost her life."
The heavy police presence continued at the scene hours after the incident. Shortly after 10 a.m., a blue hatchback was seen being towed from the plaza with a police escort.
This is a breaking news story. Check back with Patch for more details.