Police in Thornton, Colorado have released photos of a suspect and his vehicle in what they say was the random shooting deaths of three people inside a Walmart store near Denver. The shooter, who walked into the store and indiscriminately shot people without saying a word, is still at large, police confirmed in a statement on Twitter. You can see those photos above. The gunman is now in custody.
Here’s a closer look at the man, whose name was released on the morning of November 2 by police as Scott Ostrem, 47. According to The Denver Post, “the gunman fled in a red Mitsubishi Mirage four-door hatchback,” and police had no idea who he was in the hours immediately after the shooting. Police said the man “walked into the Walmart ‘nonchalantly’ and opened fire randomly on a group of people near the cash registers.” Police said on the morning of November that Ostrem was under arrest.
Here’s a closer view of the suspect’s vehicle (it’s the red car in the picture.) Authorities have not yet labeled the man a suspect.
Although Ostrem is now under arrest, he was at large for hours after the shooting. “There is currently NO one in custody. Unfortunately the female transported with injury has also passed away. (3) confirmed dead,” Thornton police wrote on Twitter late on November 1. They developed the person of interest through video review and eyewitness interviews. “UPDATE: Detectives currently reviewing security footage & witnesses being interviewed for assistance with suspect(s) desc/info,” police said a short time before they released the photos.
It now appears that the multiple shooting deaths in the Walmart were random, according to local news reports. “Share & call if you recognize this man. At this point @ThorntonPolice believe it was a random shooting at the southern entrance of Walmart,” reported Jackie Crea of the Denver Channel on Twitter. According to The Denver Post, police say “a gunman wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and a maroon shirt walked into the south entrance of the store and began shooting a handgun randomly. The three victims were all in the same area near the front of the store.” News9 reported that the man was white, had a handgun, and is believed to be armed and dangerous. The video below shows the store after people fled it:
Thornton police said there was not an active shooter, at least not anymore, and they confirmed that two males were also killed in the shooting in addition to the female. The gunfire erupting inside the Walmart store sent panicked shoppers fleeing for exits. The victims have not yet been identified. The initial reports, which flooded in around 6 p.m. on November 1, said that multiple people were down inside the busy shopping center. The Walmart Super Center is located in suburban Denver, and the FBI was at the scene. The motive was not clear.
When the shooting broke out, shoppers had two choices: Flee for their lives or hide. People did both, The Denver Channel reported. “The shooting at the busy shopping center forced customers to either hide in the store or frantically run for the doors,” according to the station.
One man “told Denver 7 he was in the store with his son when he heard at least three shots. He said an employee directed him and his son to a back door where they were able to safely escape,” according to The Denver Channel. The witness described hearing multiple bangs. Shoppers and employees were later taken by bus to reunite with their families.
Witnesses described a horrific scene in which gunfire broke out near a checkout area in the store. “I was just picking up my last item and about to head toward the checkout,” a witness told KDVR. “I heard two slow pops that sounded like they were coming from the front checkout area, and then started to run as about four more shots rang out a little faster. At that point, everyone was just running and screaming.”
Another witness said frantic shoppers couldn’t all get the doors open. “I was one of the first people there and for some reason these doors weren’t opening. I was pushing on them, pushing on them,” Marcus Smith said to KDVR. “Another dude comes up and tries pushing on them and they wouldn’t open. Then a few seconds later you just hear people running right to the exit yelling, ‘He’s got a gun! HE’S GOT A GUN!’ Screaming and screaming.” He was finally able to get the door open and fled the store with his daughter in his arms, the television station reported.
Although the motive was not yet clear, The Denver Channel quoted a source as saying that terrorism was not suspected. That was an obvious concern early on in light of the Halloween afternoon terror attack in New York City by a man who rammed a truck into bicyclists.
“Ranking Homeland Security Official tells Denver7 investigates there are no known terrorism links at this time,” The Denver Channel reported. Witness Aaron Stephens told 9News, “At first I thought it was a firecracker, but it sounded more – it was louder… I was like, what the heck’s going on? Then I heard two more shots and I freaked out and hit the ground.” He added: “I didn’t want to die. Here’s Las Vegas happening in Colorado – at that moment all I could think about was my life.”
With no one in custody, authorities turned to surveillance footage as well as witnesses to get a sense of the suspect. It was a big task. “Forty-eight witnesses were taken from the Walmart to a nearby police building,” reported 9News. “The delay on the public update from police is due to authorities gathering information on a potential suspect.”
The television station added, “There is a large police perimeter set up outside the store – no one is allowed close. Police can be seen coming and going from the Walmart as they continue to investigate.”