On Sunday afternoon, Jose Sanchez, a wheelchair-bound bystander, watched as between 70 and 100 people ran out of the Home Depot on West 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Manhattan. He didn't know it yet, but just moments before, an employee had fatally shot his manager with a .38-caliber revolver at least three times before killing himself with a bullet to the head.
"I don't know how to describe it... they definitely just looked terrified," Sanchez told me outside of the Home Depot. "Everyone was running."
The group huddled in a parking lot across the street, shivering in the cold weather; many of them were employees, wearing the company's signature orange shirts without coats. As they called family members, sobs and screams rang through the crowd, and employees darted around with schedules, making sure all 70 of their peers on shift that day were present. They were eventually brought back inside by NYPD officials.
Spectators collected on the sidewalks, horrified to find out what had happened on the busy Chelsea street. Former employees stood close to the strands of caution tape, visually distraught and crying in each others' arms as more details emerged from the grisly scene inside.
Cops say the sequence of events that led to the fatal confrontation between the gunman, 31, and his supervisor, 38, is still murky, as is the motive. The gunman was a current employee, police officials said, and the two were having a conversation in the run-up to the shooting. Apparently only one witness saw the final moments before blood was spilled.
"We have no idea what it stemmed from," Captain-Commanding Officer Steven Wren said at a press briefing outside the store. The investigation, he said, was active and ongoing.
(Identities of both victims have yet to be released by police. VICE has reached out for the NYPD for confirmation of possible identities, and we're waiting to hear back.)
Accounts from those on the scene varied. One former employee who wouldn't provide his name said the shooter had recently been fired, suggesting this was a simple act of vengeance. Whatever inspired the killer, his victim died on the way to Bellevue Hospital Center.
"He was a good, hard-working man who only worked for his family," the former employee said of the supervisor. "He had just gotten promoted, too." The supervisor's wife and child live in France, according to the New York Post, and he was sending money their way.
One of the customers inside the store during the shooting was Alexandra Pelosi, the documentarian and daughter of former US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "It sounded like a big refrigerator had fallen over," Pelosi told the Daily News. "A woman started screaming at the top of her lungs, howling. And then everybody, it was like the running of the bulls, everybody just took off."
On Monday, grief counselors will be provided for employees and their families. When reached for comment by VICE, Home Depot spokesperson Stephen Holmes said, "We're deeply saddened by this tragedy. We are fully cooperating with the authorities on their investigation of what appears to have been an isolated incident."
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