The gunman who killed three people in a shopping mall near Indianapolis would likely have taken many more lives if not for the “heroic” actions of an armed bystander who shot the suspect dead and stopped the attack, police said on Monday.
Jonathan Sapirman, of Greenwood, began firing after leaving a bathroom at the Greenwood Park Mall shortly before it closed Sunday evening, the city’s police chief, James Ison, said at a news conference.
Sapirman continued shooting people until he was shot and killed by 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken, of Seymour, a city about 45 miles south of Greenwood, who was shopping with his girlfriend, Ison said, calling Dicken’s quick action “nothing short of heroic.”
“He engaged the gunman from quite a distance with a handgun and was very proficient in that, very tactically sound. And as he moved to close in on the suspect, he was also motioning for people to exit behind him,” Ison said of Dicken. “To our knowledge, he has no police training and no military background.”
The chief added that Dicken afterward turned himself over to mall security personnel and cooperated with police.
Dicken was initially handcuffed and his gun was confiscated before he was taken for questioning to the police department, where his account was verified by video footage, according to Ison.
The shooting lasted just two minutes from the time the suspect opened fire until he was killed. Beforehand, the gunman had spent more than an hour in a mall bathroom, apparently preparing for the attack and putting together the murder weapon he carried disassembled in a bag, the chief said.
“Many more people would’ve died last night if not for a responsible armed citizen that took action very quickly within the first two minutes of the shooting,” Ison said, noting that authorities were still trying to determine a motive for the attack.
The Johnson County and Marion County coroners’ offices identified the slain victims as a married Indianapolis couple—Pedro Pineda, 56, and Rosa Mirian Rivera de Pineda, 37—and Victor Gomez, 30, also of Indianapolis. A woman and a 12-year-old girl who was hit by shrapnel were wounded in the attack, police said.
Although authorities said Dicken was legally armed, the mall prohibits people from carrying weapons on its property. The mall issued a statement Monday saying it grieves for the victims and that it was “grateful for the strong response of the first responders, including the heroic actions of the Good Samaritan who stopped the suspect.” The company said the mall was closed on Monday.
As of July 1, Indiana law allows anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun in public except for those prohibited for reasons such as having a felony conviction, facing a restraining order, or having a dangerous mental illness as determined by a court. Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature retained provisions in the law that allow private property owners to prohibit firearms.
Authorities said Sunday that four of the victims were female and one was male, but they corrected that Monday to two males and three females.
Ison said Sapirman used an AR-15-style rifle during the shooting and ended up firing 24 rounds within two minutes. Investigators found another one and magazines with more than 100 rounds of ammunition in the bathroom. They also found a handgun on Sapirman.
Although police don’t know a motive for the attack, Sapirman’s relatives told investigators that he recently received notice that he was being evicted from his apartment, though Ison said authorities were still trying to confirm that. Relatives also said Sapirman resigned from a warehouse job in May, he said.
The chief said Dicken fired 10 rounds from his handgun, and that as he fired, Sapirman “attempted to retreat back into the restroom and failed, and fell to the ground after being shot.”
Sapirman had a juvenile record, including for a fight at school and an incident where he ran away from home, but he had no criminal record as an adult, the chief said.
He said relatives told investigators that Sapirman has been practicing shooting at a gun range, and that records obtained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed he had frequented the range and bought ammunition there over the past two years.
Ison said officers recovered a cellphone from a toilet in the mall bathroom, while in Sapirman’s apartment they found its oven set on a high temperature with a laptop inside. The laptop and cellphone will be analyzed, he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.