Our community suffered another tragedy Wednesday night when a gunman entered the Martin’s Supermarket on Bristol Street in Elkhart and eventually opened fire. According to Indiana State Police, two women — a 20-year-old employee and a 44-year-old customer — were shot to death shortly after 10 p.m.
Police said another employee was shot at but not hit and a store manager was briefly held hostage at gunpoint by the gunman, but was able to escape once Elkhart city police arrived at the scene. In all, it appears roughly 15 people were able to escape the store after the first shots were fired.
OUR HEARTS ARE FILLED with sadness because of this senseless act and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. We can hardly imagine the pain and shock they must be experiencing and hope their family, friends and faith bring them the comfort they deserve.
From the accounts we have heard so far, the efforts and actions of two Elkhart police officers who were the first to arrive at the scene just three minutes after the initial 9-1-1 call, were paramount in preventing the further loss of innocent life.
Upon arrival at the scene, the officers entered the front of the store, tracked the suspect and shot and killed him. While we are saddened by any loss of life, it appears clear to us that these officers did what had to be done to protect themselves and the lives of others.
“We know that the quick response from Elkhart police saved lives, and for that we will be forever grateful,” said Rob Bartels, president and CEO of Martin’s Supermarkets. “We appreciate the professional way in which both the Elkhart and Indiana State Police have handled the situation.”
Gov. Mike Pence commended the work of the Elkhart Police Department, “For courageously intervening and bringing the incident to a swift conclusion.”
SGT. TRENT SMITH of the Indiana State Police said there is “no doubt” in his mind that the actions of responding officers saved lives. “They knew what they were confronted with,” Smith said during a press conference Thursday morning. “They acted with bravery. They knew when they went into the store and heard the gunshot. They went there, and that was an effort to stop (more fatalities) in the store.”
Smith also made a reference to the shootings at Goshen’s Nu-Wood factory back in December 2001. Several people were shot and the plant manager and shooter both died. Police agencies waited several hours before entering the factory after shots were reported.
The events of that day have been studied intently and protocol for such events has shifted to more immediate action by first responders. As Smith said, police officers train for these situations and know the danger they face each time a call comes over their radio.
While we mourn these tragic deaths, we also feel gratitude toward the people in our community willing to put their lives on the line to help others.