OLD BRIDGE, N.J. — An ex-Marine wearing desert camouflage opened fire at a New Jersey supermarket early Friday, killing two of his co-workers and himself as other terrified store employees ran for cover, authorities said.
Terence Tyler, 23, left his shift at a Pathmark store in Old Bridge Township around 3:30 a.m., drove off and returned 20 minutes later to the closed store with a handgun and an assault rifle similar to an AK-47, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said. About 12 to 14 workers were still there.
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He first fired outside the store at an employee, who ran inside and warned co-workers as Tyler kept firing and entered the store, Kaplan said. Tyler stopped at one of the supermarket aisles and fired at five other workers, killing 18-year-old Christina LoBrutto and a 24-year-old Bryan Breen as other workers hid, officials said.
“I do not believe that they were specifically targeted. I believe everybody in the store was a target,” said Kaplan.
After firing at least 16 shots, the gunman then drew his handgun and killed himself, the prosecutor said.
Tyler was discharged from the Marines in 2010 after just under two years in the service, the Marines said. His uncle, Christopher Dyson, said he left after suffering from depression.
But Tyler, who lived with his uncle, also a Pathmark employee, was happy with how well he was getting paid, Dyson said. “He wasn’t sad,” he said. “I don’t know what triggered him to do what he did.”
His cousin, Shanteya Dyson, who lives in New York, said Tyler had been hospitalized during his time with the Marines, and was never happy there.
The cousin said Tyler, whose father died when he was young, had not been the same since his mother died of cancer about five years ago.
“That was his best friend. He was always a quiet guy. But he got more quiet. He really didn’t speak at all. He was just blank,” said the 26-year-old Dyson. “I wish it didn’t turn out this way.”
At the top of a Facebook page for a Terence Tyler who says he served in the Marines the same dates as the shooter has this slogan: “Be optimistic. All the people you hate are going to eventually die.”
Tyler moved to an apartment near the Pathmark earlier this summer, neighbors said. Kaplan said he had worked for less than two weeks at the store.
Tyler, an infantryman from Brooklyn, never served overseas, said Marine spokeswoman Capt. Kendra Motz. She wouldn’t comment on the circumstances of his discharge.
Pathmark worker Miranda Miranda said she steered clear of Tyler. “The way he looked at me, he gave me an uneasy vibe,” she said.
Miranda had regularly worked the overnight shift on Thursday but said LoBrutto agreed to take over the shift for her a few weeks ago.
“Right now, all I know is what keeps coming into my mind,” she said. “That could’ve been me.”
Tyler spent the July 4 weekend drinking at Jersey shore bars with Manase Acheantong, who said Tyler was his friend’s cousin.
“We went out. We had drinks. He was a normal kid. He didn’t start no fights. He didn’t seem crazy,” said Acheantong, 25, of Old Bridge.
John Niccollai, president of a foodworkers union that represents some store employees, said Pathmark officials and workers told him the gunman wore military clothing and had just punched out for the night before coming back into the store and opening fire.
Many of the employees escaped gunfire, Niccollai said, when an assistant manager, “who I would view as a hero,” helped many workers to get out of the store through the back door.
Kaplan and police walked through the shooting scene at the supermarket Friday morning, with two long windows in the front completely shot through. Police kept onlookers away; a number of vehicles were in the parking lot outside, along with police cars. Two bodies were removed from the store Friday afternoon.
The store and its parking lot were closed.
A spokeswoman for Pathmark’s parent company, Montvale-based Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. said Friday the company is “deeply saddened” by the shooting and is cooperating with investigators.
“We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and our appreciation to local law enforcement,” spokeswoman Mary Connor said.
Old Bridge is a bedroom community of about 65,000 just across the Raritan Bay from New York City’s Staten Island.
A vigil was planned Friday at Old Bridge School for LoBrutto and Breen, who both graduated from the school. LoBrutto, who was a horn player in the school band, graduated this year, Schools Superintendent Timothy Brennan said. Breen graduated in 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Ruano knew Christina from school. “She was a really bubbly girl,” Ruano said. “She was silly. She was sweet.”