The Red Deer man accused in a fatal shooting in front of a city Walmart was armed with a sawed-off semi-automatic rifle and fired at two other people — missing both — while fleeing.
Shooting victim Charles (Jim) Williams, 69, and his wife had just left Walmart and he was at his car when confronted by an armed suspect about 6:45 p.m. Friday.
Police were initially told that the shooting had happened following an argument in the front entrance of the store, said RCMP Insp. Mark Groves at a Monday morning news conference. But when RCMP officers arrived, it was clear the incident had happened in the parking lot about 60 metres away.
“A confrontation occurred at his vehicle, during which time (Williams) was fatally shot,” said RCMP Insp. Mark Groves, Monday.
“At this point, it looks like it was an intended robbery.”
After shooting Williams, the suspect jumped into a waiting black SUV being driven by a woman.
“As the black SUV was driving away the male shot at two other persons in the parking lot,” said Groves. “Fortunately, these bullets did not strike the intended victims.
“He continued to shoot randomly as they departed the parking lot.”
Groves said he did not know how many shots were fired in all.
Bystanders and RCMP performed CPR on Williams until an ambulance arrived to take him to Red Deer’s hospital, where he died soon after.
RCMP Air Services, Police Dog Services, the Emergency Response Team and Mounties from surrounding detachments were searching for the two suspects when Rimbey RCMP got a report of a stolen pickup.
Police tracked down the two suspects, who were now in separate trucks, and stopped them near Hwy 11A close to Sylvan Lake.
Crystal Maurice, 30, was arrested in the vehicle and Chase Freed, 18 was arrested after a short foot chase and both were in custody by 10:30 p.m.
Freed has been charged with second-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder while using a firearm, failing to stop while being pursued by a police officer, dangerous operation and theft of motor vehicle.
“Numerous firearm-related offences are also pending the outcome of this investigation,” said Groves.
Maurice. a mother-of-four, was charged with accessory after the fact to murder, failing to stop while being pursued by a police officer, dangerous operation and theft of motor vehicle.
She made a short appearance by closed-circuit TV link from the Red Deer Remand Centre in Red Deer court on Monday.
Maurice remains in custody and is due back in court on Jan. 8.
Freed’s first court date is Jan. 6.
A memorial with flowers and a cross has been set up at the front of the Walmart. Many people wrote condolences in a book left on the table.
Groves said despite the violent incident Red Deer remains a safe city.
“This is a terrible incident, but this is also a very rare thing to happen in our city,” he said. “A random shooting in this city such as this doesn’t happen very often.”
RCMP initially told the public they believed it was a targeted attack, which later turned out to be wrong.
Groves said the 911 calls that came in suggested Freed and Williams had been speaking before the shooting, leading some to believe they knew each other.
Police also issued notice that the public was not at risk even while the suspects were still on the run.
Groves said there had been social media buzz that a mass shooting with six to eight victims had taken place at Walmart.
“We wanted to immediately quell that information and to assure that was not the case.”
Walmart was packed with Christmas shoppers when the shooting happened. Customers and staff were not allowed to leave the store at first.
Groves said because of the number of shots fired, police set up a large perimeter and did not allow people to take their vehicles because of the investigation. They were later evacuated through a rear door, some using city buses to get home.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to collect $5,000 for the family.