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Police: Man Opens Fire in Crowded Shopping Center

April 13, 1996

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A sniper holed up inside an abandoned, burning building opened fire in a busy shopping center, killing one person and leaving seven others wounded by gunshots and flying glass. He perished in the flames.

For nearly an hour Friday, the unidentified gunman fired some 100 rounds from the shuttered Po’ Folks restaurant. Hundreds were forced to crouch behind cars and scurry into nearby businesses for refuge.

A Pizza Hut restaurant next door to Po’ Folks was riddled with bullets, as were several vehicles in the parking lot.

Police, working in a steady rain, pulled the suspect’s body from the charred shell of the restaurant some time afterward. The gunman was not identified, but police said they believed they knew who he was and thought he had acted alone.

No motive was given.

Officers found three automatic handguns among the debris.

The person who was killed by gunfire also was not identified.

The most seriously injured was Pamela Berry, a police reporter for The Clarion-Ledger newspaper, who was shot while she talked on a cellular phone with another reporter. She was in stable condition at University Medical Center after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the neck.

Police said the wound was not life threatening.

``We sent her out there. She was apparently fairly close (to the shooting), but we don’t know where exactly she was. Another one of our reporters had called her on the cellular phone and she was shot while on the phone,″ said Dan Davis, the newspaper’s metro editor.

Two young boys also were treated for gunshot wounds; one of them, James Lawson, 10, was hospitalized in stable condition with a wound to his lower left leg, a spokeswoman at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center said. The other boy was treated for a graze wound and released.

Four other women were treated for minor injuries, some from flying glass, and sent home.

The gunfire began shortly after 6 p.m., as commuters crowded the giant Sack and Save Grocery and adjacent Wal-Mart store, across the parking lot from the restaurant. The shopping center is in a densely populated area of southwest Jackson and is popular with area residents and students from nearby Jackson State University.

About 200 people were in the Wal-Mart when the shooting began, said Mike Poff, the store’s assistant manager.

``We put all the people back in the store because we have those big windows in front,″ he said. ``We didn’t want anybody to get hurt.″

Johnny Hoover said he was ``coming down from the Wal-Mart and I saw the bullets hit the street in front of my car.″

``Then the bullets hit my car and blew my tires out,″ he said.

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