CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) — Two officers are in stable condition, with one requiring surgery, and the suspect is dead following a shooting Saturday at a Wal-Mart in suburban Phoenix, authorities said.
Mitchell Oakley, 24, was killed after opening fire at officers who were responding to a call about a trespasser, Chandler police said. A Wal-Mart employee recognized Oakley as someone who had been ejected from the store in the past and called police around 6:30 a.m., police spokesman Seth Tyler said.
The officers encountered Oakley at the front of the store, just past the greeters’ area of the store at 1175 S. Arizona Ave.
“As they approached, they were shot multiple times within a matter of seconds. A seemingly routine call turned into a deadly encounter within a split second,” police Chief Sean Duggan said.
The first officer entered the store and was fired upon immediately by the suspect, according to witnesses.
The second officer, who was in close proximity, was also shot but was able to return fire. It is uncertain if the first officer discharged his weapon. Both were wearing bulletproof vests.
“I guess you can call it what you want. It sounds like an ambush to me,” Tyler said.
The names of the officers are not being released until out-of-town family members return.
The Wal-Mart Supercenter is open 24 hours, but it remains closed. It is unknown how many people were in the store at the time, but there were shoppers.
Cynthia Ayala was on the other side of the store in a dressing room when she heard the gunfire, but she didn’t realize at first what she heard. “I thought it was like pallets falling. I never thought it would be gunshots,” Ayala said.
The shots came one after another, and then it became apparent they were bullets, she said. “I was just really scared as to where they would fall,” Ayala said.
She came out of the dressing room when things calmed down. Employees then escorted her and other shoppers to the store’s garden center, Ayala said.
Oakley was a transient, but he had family in the Chandler area, police said.
A woman who identified herself as Oakley’s mother but did not give her name declined comment when reached by phone.