Shooting Spree by ‘Incoherent’ Gunman Leaves Six Dead, 14 Wounded
PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) _ A rambling, incoherent man who neighbors said loved guns and hated children was charged with six counts of murder Friday after a shooting barrage at two neighborhood shopping centers.
William Bryan Cruse, 59, who was overpowered by police Friday morning after he broke off negotiations, apparently began his shooting spree after two children raced across his lawn, neighbors said.
In addition to those killed, 14 people were injured and several were held hostage in a wild night which eventually involved 200 police officers from Palm Bay and surrounding communities. Police said the suspect fired about 150 rounds.
Cruse was charged Friday with six counts of first-degree murder, 10 of attempted first-degree murder and multiple other counts, including kidnapping, said Palm Bay Police Chief Charles Simmons.
″We’re trying to find out what brought it about,″ said Simmons. ″At this time we don’t know.″
Two civilians were detained during the evening. One who exchanged gunfire with the suspect was released, police said, and the other, who was wearing a badge, police hat and a revolver in a shoulder holster, was sent to a mental facility. Neither man was identified.
Cruse, who had no criminal record in Florida, appeared Friday before Brevard County Judge Harry Stein for a brief hearing.
Thin, ashen-faced and wearing a brown prison uniform, Cruse briefly answered questions about his finances. ″I had a car,″ Cruse said. ″I don’t know what happened to it.″
Stein found him indigent and appointed a public defender, Valerie Brown, to represent him. She then objected to a statement signed by Cruse which allowed him to be interrogated without counsel present.
Stein did not rule on the objection, and set Cruse’s next appearance for May 15 in Titusville, the county seat.
Neighbors Eucal Grant, 68, and Derrick Suarez, 14, said Cruse came out of his house Thursday yelling and firing a gun after children crossed his lawn. Teen-ager John Rich was hit by a shot but not seriously injured, they said.
″All of a sudden I heard Cruse screaming and saw him drive away,″ said another neighbor, Marguerite Hall.
″He really disliked children very, very intensely. He was out there the minute they came home from school, to make sure they didn’t bother his property, didn’t walk across it,″ Mrs. Hall said.
Friday morning police took Cruse barefoot to the scene of the shooting and apparently interrogated him, then took him to the jail.
Looking meek and forlorn, Cruse was greeted at jail by signs posted by inmates saying ″fry his kind″ and ″not insane.″
Witnesses said Cruse fired wildly at anyone in his path as he crossed from one shopping center into another Thursday night, shooting children and firing down at wounded victims. Gunfire killed the first two police officers on the scene.
As the rampage began, police reports of the number killed ranged up to 12 before an accurate count could be made.
The area around the Winn Dixie supermarket, where Cruse was captured, was roped off Friday. Cars, many with bullet holes, remained as they had been parked when the shooting broke out, and the front of the supermarket was pocked with bullet holes.
SWAT teams stormed the store after tossing tear gas and a ″flash-bang″ percussion device into the store. Police said a .223-caliber rifle, a bag of ammunition and an apparently unused pistol were seized. Earlier reports had said the gunman had two rifles.
Officers moved in following hours of negotiations.
″He went from melancholy to fits of rage,″ Simmons said, adding that Cruse ″was incoherent, rambled, (and) talked about getting a car.″
Simmons identified the slain officers as Ronald Ridgeley Grogan, 27, and Gerald Douglas Johnson, 28.
Cruse shot through the officers’ patrol car window eight times, Simmons said, killing one. The second officer exchanged gunfire with Cruse, and was shot while reloading.
Also killed were Nobi Abdul Alhanell and Emad Mohamiad Al-Juwakuly, both of Kuwait, along with Lester Watson and Ruth Green, Simmons said. Police did not know their home towns.
Ten others were hit by gunfire, and four people suffered other injuries in the panic and confusion. Two were in critical condition Friday, two in serious condition, three fair and two satisfactory. The other five, including one with a gunshot wound, had been treated and released.
Witnesses said Cruse shot one older couple just leaving the Publix supermarket at the first center.
″He shot both of them,″ said Publix employee D.J. Carter. ″They were lying on the ground and he just kept on shooting them.″
Jodie Pearson, a 16-year-old checkout girl at Publix, said the gunman shot and killed two dogs in his path.
The gunman then crossed the street in his car to a second shopping center, where he fired at pedestrians before entering the Winn Dixie store.
″I looked out the window and could see people running around the corner. Kids were crawling on their hands and knees. Mothers and kids were running all over the place. It was chaos out there,″ said Ray Mendoza, a cook at a restaurant across the street.
As many as 100 people were in the Winn Dixie when the gunman burst in, but most ran out. Finally Cruse held only three hostages, releasing two women after saying ″he didn’t want to hurt any more women,″ said police spokeswoman Louise Brown. The third hostage, a man, later escaped or was released.
When police learned that some store employees were hiding in a cooler in the back of the store, they decided to move in before they were discovered.
″We did not want him to locate them and go back to the start again,″ said Simmons.
After firing tear gas and the flash device into the store, about 200 officers, many of them from SWAT teams from across Central Florida, charged the building.
Cruse emerged gasping and choking from the back door and was finally wrestled down by police.
″They started to cuff him when they grabbed him, and he fought them all the way to the car, knocking one of those guys down,″ Buddy Donald, 25, who lives nearby, said, describing Cruse’s arrest.
Palm Bay is a 65-square-mile city in south Brevard County. About 43,000 people live in what is Florida’s fifth-largest city in area and one of its fastest-growing in population.