Louisiana sheriff on fatal gun store rampage: 'I don't know why'

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The Louisiana gun store customer who opened fire in a sudden shooting rampage showed no signs of anger or agitation before his attack at the New Orleans-area shop, the local sheriff said Monday.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto confirmed during a press conference two days after Joshua Williams allegedly shot and killed two people before he, too, was fatally wounded, that the 27-year-old had a legal permit to carry a gun and instigated the exchange of gunfire Saturday afternoon at the Gun Outlet in suburban Metairie.

“The fact of it is, I don’t know if we’ll ever know the why of why this happened”

— Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto

But the attack is still marred with mystery.

“I don’t know why,” Lopinto said during the briefing. “There are certain crimes that happen in your career and this is the one for me: There’s no reason that it ever should have turned into this event.”

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Joshua Williams walked into Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie on Saturday, with his brother, Timothy Williams, and his brother’s two children, ages 7 and 9, purportedly to purchase ammunition, Lopinto said. 

“They were in the store for approximately seven minutes, conversing with clerks, picking out ammunition that they needed,” Lopinto said.

But Joshua Williams broke one of the store’s rules in that he had a loaded gun with an extended magazine, which is not allowed until a person gets to the gun range area.

When the store clerk spotted the gun, he asked Joshua Williams if it was loaded, and he answered that it was not. The clerk then asked that he clear the gun or take it outside, Lopinto said.

“There was no argument between the two. There was no argument between the clerks or Mr. Williams at that time,” Lopinto said. “Joshua Williams was not really confrontational from that standpoint. He didn’t want to necessarily bring his gun to the car but, he was cooperating because mainly his brother told him to cooperate … There was no angst, I would say, between the employees.”

Interviews with witnesses and reviews of video indicate Joshua Williams showed no sign of anger or agitation before he walked to the front door as though he were going to exit. But he then fired into the air outside before firing his gun as he went in and out of the building multiple times.

Over the first 48 hours following the shooting, investigators recovered more than 2,000 pieces of evidence and nearly 3,000 photographs. There were eight shooters and police have taken 25 witness statements. Investigators found almost 100 different gun casings.

The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office conducted three autopsies, and two additional people, both store employees, were wounded, Lopinto said.

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“The fact of it is, I don’t know if we’ll ever know the why of why this happened,” Lopinto said.  

Video released by the sheriff’s office during a livestreamed news conference in Gretna shows part of what happened. It shows Williams at the door of the store, firing in. At another point, it shows Joshua Williams inside taking aim at one of those killed, Veronica Billiot, 59, of Belle Chasse, also a customer. It shows him aiming in the area where employee Herbert “Noah” Fischbach, 47, of Jefferson, had taken cover behind a counter. And it shows him walking up and down a hallway in the building where a firearms class was underway.

ATF investigators look at evidence at the scene of a multiple-fatality shooting at the Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie, La., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

ATF investigators look at evidence at the scene of a multiple-fatality shooting at the Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie, La., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Seven other people, all firearms-trained employees of the gun store and shooting range, fired at Joshua Williams before he was killed outside the building, Lopinto said.

It remained unclear Monday if the two people who were wounded were hit by gunfire from Joshua Williams or someone else.

Timothy Williams fled the store with his children after the shooting started. Lopinto said he cooperated with authorities and couldn’t explain his brother’s behavior. He gave authorities a statement and “basically said his brother flipped out,” Lopinto said.

Lopinto said Fischbach was one of the employees who returned fire once the shooting began. However, he had taken cover behind a counter and was on the floor with his back toward Williams when he was killed, likely unaware that Williams had reentered the store after going outside.

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Fischbach’s wife, Nancy, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that her husband was a special effects specialist and an armorer who supervised weapon usage on film sets. She said had been working at the gun shop because of COVID-19 restrictions on the film industry. She believes he died helping people inside the store.

“He bent over backwards for everybody. … He would not hurt anybody unless they did something wrong,” she said.

Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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