Thursday morning Dee Stemm was pushing snow to the sides of her driveway, trying to stay ahead of the heavy snowfall that was blanketing the Cobblestone subdivision.
While working, she did not have to worry about the usual heavy traffic coming out of the Martin’s Supermarket parking lot a few yards from the end of her driveway. The lot was barricaded and the store was surrounded with hundreds of yards of yellow plastic police tape.
On Wednesday night Shawn W. Bair, 22, had murdered a 20-year-old store employee Krystle Dikes and customer Rachelle Godfread, 44, in the grocery and seemed to be preparing to kill the store’s manager when two Elkhart police officers interrupted that execution, then shot him to death.
“He doesn’t look like a happy person,” Stemm said as she was shown Bair’s photo to see if she recognized him from the neighborhood.
From early accounts police gave at a press conference and from information gleaned from his Facebook page and criminal record, Bair indeed was troubled. (See related stories.)
Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith walked reporters through the shootings step by step during a press conference Thursday morning.
Police believe Bair walked to the store, like he often did. Smith said Bair entered the store at 3900 East Bristol St. in the city’s far northeast corner, at 9:30 p.m. and then walked around it continuously for a half hour. An unarmed security guard was watching him at that time, according to Smith.
“He was watching him just because of the fact he knew him and he was walking around and not buying anything,” Smith Said. “And there just wasn’t that many people in the store at that time of night.”
Smith said security video shows Bair acted as if he was texting on his cell phone and also talking on it. But Smith is not sure if he was actually using the phone or just pretending to do so as there was no audio on the video.
“At 10:05 p.m. things started to change,” Smith said.
That is when Blair pulled a .40 caliber handgun from beneath his jacket and began his murderous violence. He first shot Dikes, who was stocking merchandise.
“Mr. Bair shot the female subject and then we believe in the next minute or so he walked around and saw another Martin’s employee and made some verbal exchanges,” Smith said. “She ran. Thankfully he fired at her and missed. She was able to escape out of the store.”
These shootings occurred at the west end of the store, according to Smith. Bair then moved toward the east side of the store and went several aisles down.
Bair then walked about 10 to 12 aisles from there and shot Godfread.
Smith said there were about 15 people in the store at the time, including the shooter, and within seconds of hearing the gunshots, they began to flee or hide.
“People at first they acted as if they didn’t know what was going on,” Smith said. “But within a few seconds had an idea that something was wrong and you start to see people exit the store at a rapid pace.”
Bair then walked back to the west end of the store and shot his second victim multiple times.
Then he walked down the aisle and turned the corner.
“There he was confronted by the manager of the store,” Smith said. “The manager was one of the last people left in the store. It was apparent to me that he was trying to figure out what was going on. ... Unfortunately as he walked around the corner the gunman pointed his gun right at his face.”
“They came face to face.
“Over the next two minutes, which would have been approximately 10:08 to 10:10 Mr. Bair held the manager of the store hostage,” Smith continued. “He asked him to go to his knees. You can see the manager there in a praying position. We couldn’t hear the audio but it appeared that in the position he was in you could see the gunman waiving a gun around and shouting at him in what appeared to be taunting at times.”
It was then that two police officers arrived and Bair’s attention was diverted from the manager. Bair also ran. Smith said both men ran north down parallel aisles.
“Thankfully the manager escaped,” Smith said.
Bair then stopped at the north end of the store and did something to his gun, but it is not clear on the video what that was.
“He also brandished a long hunting knife and his gun and walked around a long endcap at the store and walked down another aisle,” Smith said. “As they entered the last aisle where the suspect was, they entered withing 10 to 15 feet of each other, is my best guess,” Smith said. “And it was at that time that shots were fired with the Elkhart City Police Department and the suspect was killed.”
Smith said Bair did not shoot at police.