A Nassau County judge on Thursday sentenced former supermarket cart collector Gabriel Wilson to 50 years to life in prison for a workplace shooting spree that killed West Hempstead Stop & Shop grocery manager Ray Wishropp and injured two other store employees.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty ordered Wilson, 33, to serve 25 years to life for a second-degree murder conviction, and then to serve an additional 25 years to life for two counts of second-degree attempted murder and other charges.
Gugerty said Wilson’s actions on April 20, 2021, “shattered lives” and “devastated our entire community.”
Wishropp, 49, was the father of seven children and a new grandfather who had worked for Stop & Shop for decades.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Gabriel Wilson was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for a workplace shooting spree that killed West Hempstead Stop & Shop grocery manager and injured two other store employees.
- Acting Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty ordered Wilson, 33, to serve 25 years to life for a second-degree murder conviction, and then to serve an additional 25 years to life for two counts of second-degree attempted murder and other charges.
- Wilson apologized to Ray Wishropp's family before his sentencing. Wishropp was the father of seven children and had worked at the store for decades.
“Who will walk me down the aisle?” Wishropp’s 17-year-old daughter Valenie Wishropp asked while reading a victim impact statement before Gugerty sentenced Wilson in Nassau criminal court in Mineola. “How can I graduate without my dad?”
Rupert Wishropp, the victim's father, struggled to hold back tears when he spoke. “If he had changed his mind, I would have my son and he would have his freedom,” he said.
Wilson, too, read from a statement before the judge imposed sentence.
“I would like to apologize to the family of Ray Wishropp,” Wilson mumbled during a rambling speech.
Defense attorney Brian Carmody called Wilson “childlike” after the sentencing and has described his client as “slow.” He said Wilson lost part of his brain during a shootout in Baltimore at age 19. Wilson wore a white prayer cap throughout the trial but not on Thursday, leaving a large scar exposed on the right side of his head.
Nassau County Assistant District Attorneys Stefanie Palma and Jared Rosenblatt told the jury during the trial that Wilson had come to work on the morning of April 20, 2021, to speak to store manager Aram Dikici about a transfer to a Hempstead store closer to his home.
Wilson left the store but returned later that morning with a gun and went to an office on the store’s second floor, angry that the transfer was not quickly approved, prosecutors said.
He opened fire on Dikici and perishables manager Olivia Leary, severely injuring both. Wilson then immediately went to a file room, where he fatally shot Wishropp, the prosecutors said.
Dozens of shoppers were in the store that morning, but they did not hear the gunfire. Wilson left the supermarket but was tracked down by Hempstead and Nassau police following an exhaustive search at a Terrace Avenue apartment building several hours later, officials said.
The jurors, who deliberated for about six hours over two days, found Wilson not guilty of the attempted murders of co-workers Cathy Moran and Ana Meehan, who were in the file room with Wishropp when he was fatally shot. Neither woman was injured, although Nassau prosecutors said one bullet missed Meehan by inches before it lodged in an office printer.
On Thursday, Carmody said Wilson’s frustration with the transfer delay, combined with his mental impairment, caused him to snap. But the lawyer chose not to offer an extreme emotional disturbance defense, which would require him to prove Wilson experienced a profound loss of self-control at the time of the shooting, because of his client’s involvement in the Baltimore shootout.
“Once a jury hears you are in a shootout, it is pretty much the end of the game,” Carmody said.
Rosenblatt rejected any suggestion that Wilson opened fire because of psychological problems or his brain injury. Gugerty also said there was no evidence that Wilson was not fit to stand trial.
“The problem isn’t a disorder,” Rosenblatt said, pointing at Wilson. “The problem is you.”
Dikici and Leary both testified at the trial but were not present for Thursday’s sentencing. Rosenblatt said Leary told him she continues to suffer from physical and emotional pain from the shooting.
“I hope the defendant rots in jail first and then in hell next,” Rosenblatt said Dikici told him.
For Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, the shootings at the West Hempstead Stop & Shop were personal: She shops at the store, she said, and a friend of her son is an employee.
“The carnage only stopped because he ran out of bullets,” Donnelly said of Wilson.
Stop & Shop issued a statement after the sentencing. It said, "It is our hope that the Wishropp family and our colleagues Olivia Leary and Aram Dikici can find a measure of closure in today’s sentencing. Stop & Shop continues to honor the memory of our colleague Ray Wishropp and to support our associates impacted by this tragedy.”