Sunday, May 30, 2010

Murder-Suicide at NC Target

Guadalupe Rosas, 59, was working at her register in an Apex, North Carolina Target store this morning when a man she had once been involved with walked in and shot and killed her.  When police arrived and confronted him, he shot and killed himself.  About 150 people were in the store at the time of the incident. The Target corporation issued a statement this evening and said that the store would be closed tomorrow "so that we can focus on taking care of our team." 

Certainly there is plenty of work for counselors to do in this incident.  Aside from the obvious fact that this is a violent death, it is the death of someone at work.  While Ms. Rosas may not have been a public safety professional in the line of duty, she was nonetheless part of a team that worked together, and she, unlike her colleagues, did not survive her shift.  This will make for a more complicated set of reactions in her coworkers, from wondering if "it could have been me" to anger that she put everyone at risk to guilt that they even entertained such a thought.

In addition, there are 150 people from all walks of life who were not sure they were going to survive their shopping trip this morning.  News reports include statements from people who hid in a storage room, a man who was shopping with his young son, people who were smashed up against the doors in the panic, and someone who reported seeing flipflops and sandals strewn in the parking lot where people had run out of their shoes.  Many people ran to a nearby Lowes store where staff tended to those injured in the evacuation and waited under lockdown for police to arrive.  Every one of those Target patrons, as well as those staff and customers at Lowes who helped, potentially will have intrusive sensory images from the incident, whether they find themselves picturing the sandals in the parking lot or the shooter pointing a gun at them.  Many of those people thought they were going to die, and that is a serious risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Then there are the police officers on the scene.  Everyone is different, of course, and undoubtedly at least some of them will have no regrets that the shooter killed himself.  He was, after all, a "bad guy."  Others, however, will be troubled by the visual image of actually seeing him do it, and by the knowledge that they were right there but powerless to stop him.

This is another one of those times when having multiple different trained crisis teams responding and supporting people could be very beneficial.  Ideally, Target has either its own team or an Employee Assistance Provider with trained CISM providers available.  The police department, we can hope, has its own team with trained cops and mental health professionals and maybe a chaplain.  If we're really lucky, there's also a community response team to support the customers and the folks from Lowes.  Of course, this not being an ideal world, it's entirely possible that Target is sending in a couple of company psychologists with no trauma training at all, the police department will tell its people to "buck up," and no one will do anything for the customers at all.  That happens all the time.  I just hope folks are a little more prepared to recover in Apex.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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