Pat Mastandrea was making her regular visit to a TD Bank near Haven Drugs in Medford Sunday when she learned the reason for all the crime scene tape and emergency vehicles.
She gasped and she put her hand to her mouth when told four people had been shot to death inside the pharmacy.
"I'm shocked," said Mastandrea, 53, of Holtsville. "I'm actually speechless. I would have never thought something like that would happen here."
Mastandrea wasn't alone.
The fatal shootings inside the neighborhood pharmacy stunned and unnerved many in the Medford community and left others wondering how such extreme violence could erupt in their midst.
Stacy Gallagher, 42, lives a few blocks from the pharmacy, and said she was there Saturday afternoon to pick up a prescription. She chatted with the pharmacist on duty, who she fears is one of the victims.
They talked about her upcoming shoulder surgery, she said, and her 14-year-old son's poison ivy. "I can't get his face out of my head," said Gallagher. "I just can't believe it."
She described Haven Drugs as "a family-run place" where "people know each other and talk to each other."
The store is on Southaven Avenue near Route 112 in a medical park that also houses a chiropractor, dentist and podiatrist. The medical park is in a residential area and Tremont Elementary School is about a block away.
Onlooker Deborah Primus, 46, of Medford, said the violence was "freaky" because there's a heavy police presence on Route 112. "The economy goes bad, people are desperate for money," Primus said.
For some in the neighborhood, the killings were the latest, and by far the most gruesome, expression of an ongoing crime problem in the area.
Southaven Avenue resident Karen Rodriguez, 36, said she and her husband are considering leaving Medford after a spate of crimes.
Police said the nearby TD Bank that Mastandrea was visiting was robbed three times in 2010.
"It's disheartening, but it's not a surprise," Rodriguez said of the killings. "We're kind of looking to get out of the area soon."
Brian Curry, a North Patchogue native who lives in Arizona, is a friend of Haven Drugs owner Vinoda Kudchadkar, who witnesses said passed out Sunday when he arrived at the scene and was later taken to a hospital for treatment.
Curry said Kudchadkar is called "Vinny" by friends and store patrons and is a beloved fixture in the area. Curry called Kudchadkar's store "a throwback to the old, small, hometown pharmacy."
Curry's daughter got her first job at Haven Drugs 13 years ago, he said, and though she no longer works there, she is distraught over the killings.
"She always liked to go back and visit with the staff," he said. "I realize that if this had happened back then it might have been her behind the counter."
With Mikala Jamison,
Paul Larocco, Tania Lopez and Patrick Whittle