Suspect in fatal Washington grocery store shooting had been 'spiraling mentally,' court records say

A man who police say killed one person and wounded another during a shooting inside a Washington state grocery store is a suspected shoplifter who may be battling mental illness, according to court documents released Tuesday.

The shooting unfolded Monday morning inside a Fred Meyer store in Richland after an interaction between the suspect and victim, which was recorded by security cameras, according to police.

Police said suspect Aaron Christopher Kelly, 39, fled the scene. He was later arrested on I-90 between Spokane and the town of Sprague and will be booked in Benton County jail on first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder charges, the Richland Police Department said in a Facebook post.

"What happened in our city today was a senseless and tragic act," said Richland interim Police Chief Brigit Clary.

In court documents released Tuesday, Kelly’s former roommate told police that Kelly “has been spiraling mentally and is very paranoid.” Kelly was also known to carry a pistol, which made the roommate and others feel “extremely unsafe” when around him, the documents said.

Kelly was suspected last week of shoplifting at a different Fred Meyer store in nearby Kennewick, according to court documents.

An employee — who said Kennewick store workers were familiar with Kelly as a frequent shoplifter — snapped a picture of Kelly and his car as he left the Kennewick location last Thursday, the documents said.

Kelly is accused of walking into the Richland Fred Meyer about 11 a.m. Monday and fatally shooting customer Justin Krumbah multiple times in a grocery aisle. He then shot an employee, Mark A. Hill, had “some sort of conversation” with a shopper and wandered briefly in the store before leaving about 11:07 a.m., court documents said.

Reports of the shooting started coming in around 11 a.m. Monday and the first officers arrived on scene within a minute, Richland Police said in a statement.

Authorities stage outside a Fred Meyer grocery store after a fatal shooting at the business on Wellsian Way in Richland, Wash., Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
Authorities stage outside a Fred Meyer grocery store after a fatal shooting at the business on Wellsian Way in Richland, Wash., Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

MORE ON FRED MEYER SHOOTING: 1 killed, another injured in Washington grocery store shooting; authorities identify suspect

Officers found the two victims near each other inside the store and Krumbah, 38, had already died, Clary said. Hill, 56, was carried out of the store to waiting paramedics and is fighting for his life at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, according to the Tri-City Herald newspaper.

Kelly and Krumbah had an interaction before the shooting, according to store video footage seen by police. Police said they don’t know what the apparent conversation entailed and don’t know if the two people knew each other.

Police scanner radio chronicled officers' efforts to clear the store throughout the afternoon, sweeping each aisle and helping both shoppers and workers escape, including a group that hid in the pharmacy area. Those inside the store were escorted to the parking lot.

Police described Kelly as "armed and dangerous" after he fled. He was driving a silver Honda Civic, police added.

Fred Meyer officials said in a statement on Twitter they were deeply saddened and cooperating with law enforcement.

“The entire Fred Meyer Family offers our thoughts, prayers, and support to all affected individuals and families during this difficult time, and we have initiated counseling services for our associates,” the statement said.

Richland is about 30 miles north of the Oregon border and 200 miles southeast of Seattle.

Contributing: Christal Hayes and Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Richland Fred Meyer shooting: Suspect arrested in Washington