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Alleged Stop & Shop shooter charged with murder

Joe Aggerup and Manny Baksh embrace as they

The Stop & Shop shooting victim, identified by police as Ray Wishropp of Valley Stream, was remembered as a ‘great guy,’ always willing to help. Police said the alleged shooter was a ‘troubled employee.’  Newsday reporter Cecilia Dowd has more on this story. Credit: Newsday

This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky, Nicole Fuller, Bridget Murphy, Michael O'Keeffe. It was written by Fuller.

The supermarket worker who authorities say killed a manager and wounded two other colleagues at a Stop & Shop in West Hempstead had a history of harassing other employees and spoke with managers about transferring to a different store an hour before opening fire, police said Wednesday.

Gabriel DeWitt Wilson, 31, was ordered held without bail after he pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and four counts of attempted murder during a virtual arraignment Wednesday in Nassau District Court.

Wilson, who police said fled the scene after he fired seven shots from a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun at five people in an upstairs area containing management offices at the Stop & Shop, was arrested less than four hours later in a Hempstead apartment building following a massive police search.

The gun used in the shooting has not been recovered, but police found seven shell casings at the scene, said Nassau Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick. Police were also trying to determine where he got the gun or if he had obtained it legally, Fitzpatrick said

Police on Wednesday also identified the man who was fatally shot as Ray Wishropp, 49, of Valley Stream. One injured employee, a 50-year-old man from Bethpage, was shot three times — twice in the shoulder and one bullet grazed his cheek, Fitzpatrick said. A 26-year-old female from Bay Shore was shot once in the shoulder. Two other women, both 47, were fired upon but uninjured, Fitzpatrick said.

Wishropp's heartbroken family members said he was the father of seven and grandfather to one, as they spoke to reporters outside Wishropp's home Wednesday. Alex Bernard, Wishropp's cousin, said he had no prior conflicts with Wilson.

"We lost a genuine, great person," Bernard said. "He had a big heart and everyone knew who he was."

Prosecutor Jared Rosenblatt, chief of the Homicide Bureau for the Nassau district attorney's office, said in court that Wilson, who worked collecting shopping carts, went into the store sometime after 10 a.m. and up to its second floor, where he spoke with multiple people before leaving. Police said the conversation was about transferring to a different store, and was brief and nonconfrontational.

About 40 minutes later, Wilson returned to the scene, went back to the second floor with a loaded gun and opened fire, killing Wishropp and wounding the two other employees, Rosenblatt told the judge.

"Yesterday we heard the two most dreaded words you can hear in law enforcement— active shooter," said Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, speaking at a news conference with other officials at police headquarters in Mineola. "And with this defendant’s actions, we have joined the scores of American communities that have faced ravaging gun violence and mass shootings. It has come to Nassau County."

Singas, who said Wilson faces up 25 years to life in prison if convicted, added: "I want to make sure the message is loud and clear: if you engage in this behavior here in Nassau County, be prepared to face the full force of the law."

Fitzpatrick said police believe Wilson, who previously lived in Maryland, moved to Nassau in 2017 or 2018 and first worked at a Stop & Shop in Long Beach, then transferred to West Hempstead.

"Gabriel was a troubled employee," Fitzpatrick said.

Wilson, according to Fitzpatrick, made unwanted advances to female employees and clashed with other workers. Wilson had also threatened other workers and had been brought in to the management office several times, Fitzpatrick said.

Wilson's arrest history included charges of first-degree assault and attempted distribution of narcotics in Baltimore dating to July 2006, according to Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

More recently, Wilson was engaged in a gunbattle in Baltimore, where he was shot in the head, on April 21, 2014. In that incident, he was charged with second-degree attempted murder and possession of a firearm, Ryder said. The outcome of that case, Ryder said, is pending.

On May 13, 2016, Nassau police responded when Wilson was reportedly having a "mental health crisis" in Roosevelt, and in 2019 they responded to a similar call about him in Long Beach, Ryder said.

Brian Carmody, Wilson's attorney, said in an interview after the arraignment that Wilson suffers from "mental issues" caused by being the victim of a previous shooting.

"He was shot in the head when he was 19 and has lingering effects from that," the Garden City lawyer said.

Police received the first 911 call on Tuesday at 11:18 a.m. reporting "multiple shots fired" at the store at 50 Cherry Valley Ave., Ryder said Wednesday. Nassau police officers from the 5th Precinct, Garden City police officers and police medics were the first to arrive on the scene.

After the shooting, Wilson, in a black face mask, hat and sweatshirt, fled the store on foot eastbound on Hempstead Turnpike. An emergency broadcast alert was immediately sent out once Wilson was identified by workers at the scene.

After police released Wilson's photo and publicly identified him as the suspected gunman, Ryder said police received scores of tips on Wilson's whereabouts, including from local clergy, area politicians and members of the community who knew Wilson. Those tips, Ryder said, helped authorities locate him at 100 Terrace Ave. in Hempstead, one of his known addresses.

"It’s a chaotic scene when you first get there not knowing if there’s a shooter on site, which is why our Bureau of Special Operations came in next to sweep the building," Ryder said.

Hempstead and Suffolk police, along with the NYPD, FBI, U.S. Marshals Office, ATF and U.S. Attorney's Office, assisted with the investigation, Ryder said.

Ryder said after Wilson "tried to make a run down through the first floor," police "trapped" him.

With "great cooperation" from the Hempstead police department, Ryder said, Hempstead police officers were able to shut and lock the doors through which Wilson was trying to flee, while Nassau police officers from the department's highly trained Bureau of Special Operations came from behind.

Wilson was arrested about 3 p.m., police said, less than four hours after the shooting that had sent shoppers scrambling and caused nearby schools to lock down.

Hempstead police said during a news conference Wednesday morning that Nassau County police notified them about the shooting about noon, with information that he might be at a Hempstead apartment complex.

Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs said Wilson may have had relatives at 100 Terrace Ave. Hempstead detectives saw him on video surveillance inside the building trying to leave, and he was caught by detectives trying to exit through a back door before he was handed over to Nassau County BSO officers, Hobbs said.

"Following the horrific event yesterday, we want to commend the men and women of Hempstead police for a job well done without any police officers or the suspect harmed," Hobbs said. "We know we had an active shooting in West Hempstead and everyone was on heightened alert. Our officers showed great restraint and it could have ended another way."

Stop & Shop external communications manager Stefanie Shuman said Wednesday the store will remain closed until further notice.

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