Uk Thang was the gunman who fatally shot one person and injured 14 others at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tennessee, on September 23, 2021.
Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane confirmed in a news conference that the gunman shot 15 victims — 10 employees and five customers — and that several were in serious condition. Thang, 29, fatally shot himself at the scene; he was found in the rear of the store, police said in a news release. Police declined to give his name in a news conference, but they released it to the news media afterward, according to the Daily Memphian.
Authorities described the frantic scramble for safety that unfolded at Kroger when the gunfire broke out in the deli area of the grocery store not far from Memphis. “We removed people from freezers, closets, hiding in pallets,” Lane said in a September 24 news conference.
“It breaks my heart to have to stand before you today,” Lane said in an earlier news conference, calling the mass shooting “the most horrific event that’s occurred in Collierville history.”
There were also scenes of heroism amidst the tragedy.
Thank you to Ms. Dickerson, 32 year employee of Kroger for leading your co-workers and customers to safety.
— State Representative Antonio Parkinson (@TNRepParkinson) September 23, 2021
Many cited the heroism of long-time Kroger employee Brignetta Dickerson, who helped shepherd others to safety.
The chief confirmed that the woman who died was named Olivia King. King was a mother of three known for her religious devotion and sweet personality.
In a news conference, he said, “I ask that you keep the family of Olivia King in your prayers. The number shot is now up to 15 but thankfully our prayers were answered and they all pulled through overnight. I am not giving his name in this forum and giving him that notoriety.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Uk Thang, Who First Opened Fire in the Deli Area While Dressed in Black With a Possible Shield Over His Face, Worked at Kroger Through a Vendor
Witnesses told the Daily Memphian that the shooting “began in the deli area and described the gunman as having dark hair and dark eyes. Some reported that he was carrying a military-style rifle.”
The initial police dispatch audio, available on Broadcastify, said that there were “four gunshot victims” in the rear of Kroger by the dumpster, one person was “down near the deli with a gunshot wound to possible shoulder,” and “another party was down outside Kroger, with a gunshot wound to the shoulder and back.”
You can listen to the initial scanner audio here. It comes in the last few minutes of this audio file:
In the scanner audio, an officer said, “contact every agency for mutual aid.” An officer said at another point, “I need more ambulances.” The Daily Memphian reported that one Kroger employee climbed on the roof during the shooting to seek safety, but the shooting all occurred inside the store.
A woman shopping near the deli at the time of the shooting described the scene to News 3: “This person comes in dressed in black with maybe a shield over his face, I don’t know for sure. And I heard ‘pop, pop, pop.’ And I’m just like, ‘I can’t believe it. It’s for real.’ It was pretty rapid succession of at least 12 shots.”
On Facebook, people claimed the suspect was a fired sushi chef, although that detail was not confirmed by authorities.
“My sister was working till 2,” a woman wrote on Facebook. “The sushi chef had disagreement with another employee and they had sushi chef leave or fired him and he came back. She heard first pop sound thought it was balloons then heard more. I can’t imagine the horror they all felt.”
Lane did confirm that the suspect worked for a third-party vendor. He wouldn’t confirm whether the suspect had been fired from his job.
2. Thang, the Son of Refugees From Myanmar Described by a Friend as Someone ‘Involved in Church,’ Died From a Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound, Police Say
According to the Commercial Appeal, a family friend said Thang’s family was from Myanmar. His parents were refugees from the country in Asia formerly known as Burma. The friend identified Thang as Burmese, the newspaper reports. The friend, Aung Kyawlengle, spoke outside Thang’s parent’s home in Antioch, Tennessee. The newspaper wrote, “He said the family is very saddened and upset about what happened and that the parents did not want to speak with a reporter.”
Uk Thang’s cousin, Pang Cing, told Daily Beast that he learned the news from Thang’s parents but hadn’t seen him in 10 years.
Bawi Thang knew Thang, although they are not related, and told Daily Beast Uk Thang was “always involved in church. I always looked up to him.” Those accounts increase the mystery as to what made the gunman snap and become a mass murderer, according to police.
The shooter is dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound, the police chief says. “The shooter is deceased,” he confirmed. “We believe that is going to be from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.”
Memphis police confirmed that there was a shooting at the Kroger. “Memphis Police Officers are on the scene of a shooting at Kroger located at 240 New Byhalia Road in Collierville, TN to support Collierville PD. MPD is assisting with securing the perimeter and scene,” they wrote on Twitter.
“On September 23, 2021, at approximately 1:30 pm, the Collierville Police Department received a call regarding an active shooter at Kroger located at 240 New Byhalia Road in Collierville. Information from callers that a male individual was armed with a weapon shooting at others inside the store,” the mayor wrote in a news release.
“First officers on the scene encountered multiple shoppers and employees, some shot by the suspect. Officers located approximately 13 individuals suffering from injuries including gunshots. Emergency medical personnel from the Collierville Fire Department arrived to assist with providing medical aid to those in need. All victims have been transported to area hospitals.” (the toll of those injured later rose to 15.)
The release continued, “At this time, we believe that a single suspect is responsible for the attack. He was in the rear of the store with what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound and is dead. One other victim has also died.”
“This is a horrible day in Collierville. Our hearts go out to the victims, families, and friends involved in the senseless tragedy. Please keep our community in your thoughts and prayers,” said Chief Dale Lane. “At this time, there are no known threats to the Collierville community and our department is working diligently to prevent further violence.”
3. Video Showed Massive Law Enforcement Response at the Scene; the Suspect Had a Minor Criminal History
The suspect’s background has been slowly emerging.
Uk Thang had some “minor charges, misdemeanor arrests, but nothing [in his criminal record] for violence,” Lane said. As for motive, he said, “We all want to know the why,” but he said police were not ready to release that information. No criminal history comes up for Thang in Shelby County.
Video has also emerged from the scene.
Jason Lusk, who recorded the above videos, wrote on Facebook, “He shot off about 12 shots as I got to my car. My phone was in the car and I managed to video one of the shots and the police arriving.”
A woman wrote on his comment thread, “My coworkers brother was shot and air lifted. Her sister in law was grazed.”
4. Police Found Thang’s Vehicle in the Parking Lot & Searched His Apartment; a Neighbor Described Him as Someone Who Kept ‘to Himself’
Police revealed that they have searched Thang’s nearby apartment.
Juanita Ford, a neighbor, told Daily Beast: “He stays to himself, he never speaks or anything. I passed him going to my car leaving for work and stuff like that, I only saw him in passing, he never talked to anybody.”
The chief said the suspected shooter’s vehicle was in the parking lot and police were waiting for additional equipment to check the vehicle.
Brignetta Dickerson, the Kroger employee called a hero, told WKRN that she heard gunshots while working at the cash register.
“And, here he comes right behind us and started shooting. And, he kept on shooting, shooting, shooting. He shot one of my co-workers in the head and shot one of my customers in the stomach,” she told the television station. Her co-worker, shot in the head, asked for his mother, she said.
Glenda McDonald, who works at the Kroger, told The Commercial Appeal that she heard the gunshots and said, “I just ran out the door. I left my purse, my keys, everything.”
5. People Offered Prayers for Collierville on Social Media
People in Collierville wrote about the shooting reports on social media. “There’s an active shooter at the Kroger across the street from my job. I was literally just there getting gas,” wrote one man on Twitter.
“There’s and active shooter at a Kroger grocery store in a neighboring town. Please pray,” a woman wrote on Twitter.
A man wrote, “Local friends, stay away from the Collierville Kroger. Active shooter situation there. Pray for our community, please.”