Thomas Bruce has been identified as the man who police say shot a woman in the head after attempting to sexually assault her at a Catholic Supply store in St. Louis County, Missouri. The 53-year-old suspect also forced two other women to strip naked at gunpoint and he sexually assaulted them during the brazen midday attack at the religious merchandise store, according to police.
The horror unfolded inside the store at 3:20 p.m. on November 19. The shooting victim, also 53, died later at a local hospital. Bruce fled from the scene before police arrived, authorities said.
During a press conference on the evening of November 19, St. Louis County police Sgt. Shawn McGuire said investigators had “no idea” of the motive for the crime. Sgt. McGuire urged anyone with any information regarding the incident to come forward with information. He added, “We have a loose, armed gunman out there who’s already shot one person.”
Bruce was arrested in Imperial, Missouri, on November 21. Bruce has been charged with 17 counts, including first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree sodomy, three counts of first-degree kidnapping, eight counts of armed criminal action, and one count each of first-degree burglary and tampering with evidence. He is being held at the St. Louis County Jail. He could potentially face the death penalty.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bruce Previously Worked at the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Louis & Volunteered as a Pastor at a Missouri County Jail
According to Bruce’s LinkedIn page, his most recent job was an agent with American Family Insurance. Speaking to KMOV, Bruce’s employer said he had not heard from the suspect in 12 days. Previously, between August 2013 and March 2014, Bruce worked as a customer services specialist with the Jewish Community Center of Greater St. Louis as well as being a manager at Schnucks store.
Online documents show that Bruce filed for bankruptcy in January 2017. That filing lists Bruce as having a spouse, Diane. Records show that Bruce, who goes by Tom Bruce and Thomas Bruce Senior, also has a son.
Bruce also says that he is a Navy veteran, serving between 1983 and 1994 in addition to being a pastor at Cape County Jail. In his Navy career, Bruce says he was an avionics technician. Under the duties heading, Bruce wrote, “Too many to name.” Bruce also spent a year in morale welfare and recreation on the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63. KSDK’s Brandon Merano reports that Bruce is a lifetime member of the Arnold VFW. Bruce writes in the intro to his LinkedIn, “World traveled leader with the ability to turn the extraordinary into the ordinary. US Navy Veteran wit ha great desire and passion to serve others needs.”
In 2014, Bruce says that he graduated from Ranken Technical College with an associates degree in Applied Science. Bruce studied at the Calvary Chapel Bible College between 1992 and 2000. Bruces wrote about his time there saying, “Loved it.”
Police raided Bruce’s trailer home in Imperial, Missouri, early Wednesday morning. According to KMOV-TV, police swarmed the Geranium Drive residence about 5 a.m., with as many as 100 officers at the scene from several departments. Photos of the scene showed police searching the home as American and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags flapped in front of the house.
Bruce does not have a prior criminal record. Kathy Schroeder, Bruce’s neighbor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she saw officers removing several boxes of evidence from the home. “It sent a chill through everybody,” Schroeder told the newspaper. She said Bruce and his wife moved into the house earlier this year.
2. On his Twitter Bio, Bruce Writes, ‘Decorated Navy Vet & Trusty Shellback #MAGA’
Bruce describes himself as a, “Decorated Navy Vet & Trusty Shellback” on his Twitter bio. That line is accompanied with the hashtags, “MAGA” and “Dontreadonme.”
Bruce regularly retweets politically conservative pundits including Laura Ingraham, Candace Owens and Charles Payne. Bruce’s last visible tweet was to a woman who tweeted a list of Republicans who are up for reelection in 2000. The message read, “We will not forget you.” Bruce responded, “I’ve already forgotten you. #promisesmade #promiseskept #trump2020 #BuildTheWall.”
Around the time of the hearing about sexual assault accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Bruce tweeted several times about those who have been accused being innocent until proven guilty. He also tweeted several times about what he considers to be the left’s hypocrisy around sexual assault.
“Keith Ellison, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton are prime examples of the lefts false and phoney outrage….they circle the wagons on their own who are guilty but hammer the women who dare to speak out against a democrat,” he tweeted.
He also retweeted an Owens tweeted that read, “If you are an actual victim of rape or sexual assault— I am sorry that you have had to watch the left politicize, diminish and demean your experience for political gain. These are mentally sick people who have just placed an awful burden on the integrity of your experiences.”
In one tweet, he wrote, “So are you implying that a person is guilty because someone else claims that they did something to them? Without a trial? That’s not what our constitution says.” In another, he mocked accusers, writing in a tweet directed at Ingraham, “#MAGA I’m starting to remember that in 1985-1988, I served in the US Navy on two separate aircraft carriers in the greater San Francisco area. While there, I was victimized several times by fine steen and pee lousy.”
Just days before the Catholic Supply store attack, Bruce posted on Facebook about gun rights, sharing a post about gun control in Britain. In a conversation with a Facebook friend, Bruce wrote, ” I truly believe that this is a clear look into the past and we should be able to keep with our 2nd amendment rights…if we give up on one of the amendments… what’s stopping the government from taking more? … we should stop expecting criminals to follow the rules. I’m hoping we end gun- free zones and put the criminals on notice that they will be stopped.”
He added, “there are 5 words within the 2nd that our government is distorting…. Shall not be infringed upon. The mental issue is a murky one. On one hand, it’s obvious that a gun in the hands of an unstable person is unthinkable…. but more kill which are not unstable…. just evil. Darkness arises when the light dims.”
3. Bruce Attended Donald Trump’s November 6 Rally in Missouri That Featured Sean Hannity & Rush Limbaugh
Bruce wrote on his Facebook page that he attended Donald Trump’s November 6 rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. During that event, Trump campaigned for Republican candidates ahead of the mid-term elections alongside conservative personalities Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Bruce wrote on his page that he bought a “Trump 2020” hat at the event. On the day of his arrest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a photo of officers investigating Bruce’s home in the Quail Run trailer park. That photo showed a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag flying outside.
Bruce also wrote on Facebook that he had worked at Election Day polls in St. Louis. It’s unclear if he was working during this year’s Election Day. He shared a video about alleged voter fraud in Texas and wrote, “So sad how things like this happen. Even when I was working the polls here in St Louis, I seen and reported…. but all they did was move me to another polling place.”
4. Bruce Is Accused of Holding the Store Up & Forcing 2 Woman to Perform ‘Deviant Sexual Acts on Him’ Before Shooting One of the Women Who Refused His Demands
Bruce pretended to be a customer before leaving and returning with a gun, authorities said. Bruce is then accused of holding up the store at gunpoint and forcing three women to strip in the back office of the store. Police say that he then sexually assaulted two of them, forcing the women to perform “deviant sexual acts.” When Bruce attempted to force a third woman, identified as Jamie Schmidt, to perform the same act, she refused, and police say Bruce shot her head in the head, killing her. Bruce then continued to sexually assault the other two victims before fleeing from the store before police arrived.
Bruce is not thought to have had any connection to the victims. “It shocks the senses,” St. Louis County Police Chief Job Belmar said at a press conference. Authorities have not said if Bruce confessed or if he is cooperating with investigators. A tip led to the arrest, the county prosecutor said.
“It seems to me that a guy like this saw an opportunity,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch told. “There were three women in the store alone.”
McCulloch said they are investigating to see whether Bruce is connected to any other crimes.
Sgt. McGuire told the media, “I think everyone needs to be aware this happened at 3:30 in the afternoon on one of the busiest roads in St. Louis County.” He added that there was no surveillance video of the incident. Authorities do not know if the Bruce left the scene in a car or on foot.
Bruce had been described as a heavy-set man, 5-feet-7 inches tall. He was wearing a blue Carharrt-style jacket with blue jeans and a large belt. He was wearing a grey “paperboy style hat,” the St. Louis County Police said in a statement. Sgt. McGuire urged the public to come forward with information by calling the St. Louis County Police Department at 636-529-8210 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477. The sergeant said, “We need people to send us information. You’re not wasting our time.”
On Facebook, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar posted a message to the public after Bruce’s arrest, saying, “We’d like to thank the public for all their input and patience as we investigated the heinous incident that occurred at the Catholic Supply store. As you may be aware, a suspect is in custody. We are sincerely grateful for all the information provided to us by the community and know that with your help we were able to solve this case. Everyday, the St. Louis area proves that we are better together. Thank you. Have a great holiday.”
Dan Stutte, the president of Catholic Supply, said in a statement, “We are deeply relieved that an arrest has been made. Our sincere thanks to the St. Louis County Police for its dedication and excellent work.”
5. The Woman Who Was Killed as Been Named as 53-Year-Old Jamie Schmidt
The woman who was killed in the shooting has been named as 53-year-old Jamie Schmidt. She was a customer at Catholic Supply. Schmidt was rushed from the scene in critical condition, she was pronounced dead after arriving at a local hospital. Schmidt was a resident of House Springs, Missouri. She was an administrator at St. Louis Community College. Her husband told KSDK’s Rob Edwards that when he came home from work on November 19, he saw what he thought was his wife’s car in the driveway but it turned out to be the police, who gave him the tragic news.
Her mother, Connie Giffin, a resident in Ecuador, paid tribute to her daughter on Facebook, writing: “I don’t know how to express my feelings at this moment. My daughter, Jamie Schmidt, was shot in the head and killed this afternoon while shopping in a Catholic Supply Store in Manchester, Missouri, near her home. She has a husband and 3 children. I’m shaking and in shock as I write this but please do all you can to encourage your families to leave the US. Unfortunately none of my family shared my views on our country, now it is too late.”
Shala Malik told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she didn’t hear any commotion until the police arrived at the scene. Malik told the newspaper, “All I could see were flashing lights. It was very shocking for us. I’m surprised I didn’t hear any shouting or anything.” Malik added that she knew three women worked in the store but did not know their names. Malik said she had brief interactions with the employees of the store.