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1 Dead, 3 Hurt in Wal-Mart Shooting

May 23, 2001

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) _ A woman who began shoplifting after trying to buy bullets at a Wal-Mart store pulled a gun from her pants and opened fire, wounding three employees, authorities said Tuesday,

Laura Gassaway, 33, was then shot to death by police.

Police Sgt. Joe Westmoreland said Gassaway wanted to buy bullets but was turned down by Wal-Mart workers because she did not have a state firearm owners identification card.

Gassaway then began shoplifting other small items, Westmoreland said. Security officers stopped her, called police and took her to an office, where she pulled a handgun from inside her pants and opened fire, he said.

``When police heard the shots, they went back to the security room and found her shooting the three employees. That’s when they shot her,″ Westmoreland said.

Officers fired a total of 21 shots because she refused to drop her weapon, officials said.

Police on previous occasions had arrested Gassaway on misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct charges, ``but there’s been nothing else this violent,″ Westmoreland said.

Police Chief Jeff Nielsen said Gassaway was pregnant, but Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said she could not confirm that until an autopsy, scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday.

Of the three injured workers, one was treated and released with gunshot wounds to the left knee; two others were hospitalized in fair condition with gunshot wounds in the lower leg, officials said.

Tom Williams, a spokesman for Wal-Mart at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said the incident took place in an area where there were no customers.

``We’re just very pleased that apparently none of our three employees who were hurt had life-threatening injuries, and that no customers were hurt. And thank goodness it ended very, very quickly,″ he said.

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