Marcell Willis has been named as the Air Force airman who shot and killed a Walmart employee in Grand Forks, North Dakota, before killing himself on May 26. He was 21 years old. According to his social media, he’s a college graduate who had been working a second job. Just hours before his death, he wrote on Facebook “Go Hawks,” in reference to the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA. Willis had driven to the store with two friends who didn’t know anything about his plans.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Willis Walked Around the Store Casually Before Shooting at Employees
Police say Willis walked into the Walmart in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at around 1 a.m. There, he shot-and-killed a store employee while wounding another. He walked around the store for another while before shooting himself fatally, reports NBC North Dakota. Prior to killing himself Willis encountered another Walmart employee who he shot at, that person was not injured. When first responders got to the scene, Willis was rushed to Altru hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Grand Forks Herald reports that it wasn’t an active shooting situation when police arrived. The newspaper also says that a handgun was used in the attack. The deceased employee was named by local police as 70-year-old Gregory Weiland. The wounded person was 47-year-old Lisa Braun.
2. He Was an Active Airman Based in North Dakota Who Had Attended Suicide Prevention Classes
He was an active airman at North Dakota’s Grand Forks’ Air Force base. On his Facebook page he writes “I’m Marcell Willis I’m in the Air Force based in Grand Forks sadly:( I’m 20 Thats about it Have a Bless Day!!!” He lists his favorite quote as “Failure is a success, Only if you learn From it!!” The Grand Forks Herald reports that the Office of Special Investigations is working with local authorities in the investigation surrounding the shooting. The Grand Forks base his home to the 319th Air Base Wing. In May 2013, Willis was named as Airman 1st Class in the 319 Logistics Readiness Squadron. Valley News Live reports that during his training he had attended suicide prevention classes.
3. He’s in a Relationship With a Girl Who Goes to School in Montana
According to his Facebook page, Willis is a native of Springfield, Tennessee. He also says on his page that he was a student at Emory University and that he’s in a relationship with a girl who attends Montana State University Billings. Her Facebook profile photo shows the couple laughing together. Willis’ last Facebook update came on May 10 when he showed a picture of him and his father at his sister’s college graduation.
4. The Mayor of Grand Forks Said a Shooting Like This ‘Is Not Normal’ for the Town
The store was open at the time of the shooting with staff and customers fleeing the scene. WDAY reports that the store, which is located on 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks has been closed with no set time for its reopening. Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown, who was an officer at the Grand Forks Air Force base, released a statement on the attack saying:
The City of Grand Forks is deeply saddened by the events early this morning at Walmart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and those involved.
An incident like this shakes our community. It is not normal for us in Grand Forks. I want to especially commend our first responders.
The professionalism displayed by our first responders is second to none. Official updates regarding the incident and its investigation will come from the Grand Forks Police Department.
A Walmart statement read:
We are deeply saddened about this situation and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
We are still learning information about the events surrounding this tragedy and assisting law enforcement in their investigation.
The company told the Associated Press that there were 20 customers and 30 staff members in the store at the time of the shooting.
5. The Other Shooting Victim Is in ‘Satisfactory Condition’
The Associated Press reports that there is no link between the victims and Willis. The agency says that local authorities are treating it as random shooting. WDAY reports that the other victim is in “satisfactory condition.” Speaking to the media, local police Lt. Derik Zimmel said “We’ve not been able to find any linkage to him and any of the victims. That’s not to say that can’t change. There’s no apparent motive that jumps out at this time.”