Gunman in Publix shooting had posted online threats to kill, police say

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ROYAL PALM BEACH — Timothy Wall posted the warning on his Facebook page: He wanted to kill people, including children.

Then he walked into a Publix in Royal Palm Beach and pulled a gun on a 1-year-old boy in a shopping cart, shooting him to death with one bullet.

He didn’t count on the child’s grandmother fighting back. Police said the 69-year-old woman went after the gunman, but he knocked her down and shot her dead, too. Then, they said, Wall killed himself.

The social media warning should have been enough for concerned friends to call police, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said Friday, clearly angry. Wall’s gun could have been seized, he said. Innocent lives could have been saved.

Bradshaw said his office had no indication the public was in danger from the 55-year-old Wall: “You think a damn soul told us about that? No. And if it sounds like I’m angry, it’s because I am.”

The shooting occurred just before the lunch hour Thursday at The Crossroads plaza at 1180 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. Investigators say they have no indication that Wall knew the woman and her grandson, Bradshaw said.

After detectives reviewed store surveillance video, Maj. Talal Masri. laid out the tragedy minute by minute on Friday:

  • The grandmother entered the store at 11:07 a.m. and placed the toddler in one of those grocery carts meant to resemble a car for children. Wall, dressed from head to toe in black, came to the store on a red scooter.
  • That was the second time he had gone to the Publix on Thursday. A uniformed sheriff’s deputy was shopping the first time he entered, and Wall apparently left.
  • He walked in again at 11:29 a.m. using a golf putter as a cane. Minutes later, at 11:31 a.m., Wall spied the woman and grandson in the produce section.
  • At 11:34 a.m., Wall pulled out his gun and shot the toddler.
  • The toddler’s grandmother tried to wrest the gun from Wall, jamming it. As Wall reloaded, he pushed the woman to the ground, shooting her and then turning the gun on himself.

The shooting was over by the time the first sheriff’s deputy arrived and found the three bodies, Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday. No one else was hurt.

Timothy J. Wall is accused of shooting a toddler and his grandmother to death before turning his handgun on himself inside a Publix grocery store in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday, June 10, 2021.

Timothy J. Wall is accused of shooting a toddler and his grandmother to death before turning his handgun on himself inside a Publix grocery store in Royal Palm Beach on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy)

The Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the names of the victims, citing their interpretation of Marsy’s Law, which grants certain privacy rights to victims and families.

The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office received the bodies of seven people whose deaths on Thursday needed to be investigated. Among them were the names Litha Varone and Samuel Varone.

According to database records, Litha Varone lived in Royal Palm Beach and was 69. At a nearby home, believed to be where Samuel Varone lived, a law enforcement officer stood outside Friday, telling the South Florida Sun Sentinel that the family was not ready to make a statement.

Efforts to reach the families of the Varones and Wall were unsuccessful Friday.

“I can’t help you,” a relative of Wall’s in Massachusetts said before disconnecting the call.

In 911 calls released Friday, one panicked employee ran as he talked with the dispatcher and described what he witnessed in vivid detail, right down to the description of the shooter and his outfit.

“He was wearing all black, he had sunglasses and a black hat. He shot a child.”

The dispatcher asked if the shooter was still in the store and where the child was.

“The child’s dead. He shot it in the head,” the caller replied.

“He shot a child in the head?” the dispatcher asked in disbelief.

Bradshaw said Florida’s Red Flag law could have been used to stop Wall if someone had spoken up about his threats. The law allows law enforcement to legally seize weapons from people considered at risk of committing crimes.

“Then you wouldn’t have two people dead,” Bradshaw said. “That’s how it can work if people would only get involved. … It’s not to take guns away from people. It’s to get the guns out of the hands of people like this, that shouldn’t have them.”

Wall was a financially troubled man who struggled to make it as a copywriter. At one point, he and his then-wife owned a dry cleaning business.

According to a court affidavit declaring himself indigent in his divorce proceedings in 2017, Wall claimed to have $250 in cash on hand, $5 in checking and $1 in savings in 2017. He also claimed to owe $15,000 in credit card debt.

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His divorce was granted in 2018, and a judge said he could stay in their home until December 2018. By May 2019, he was still in the home, and his ex-wife filed a lawsuit to evict him. He also was sued by a creditor. That was dismissed after Wall was granted a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

According to the bankruptcy filing earlier this year, Wall owed more than $206,000 but had assets of $6,047.35. The assets included more than $4,000 in an eTrade account, $743.44 in Bitcoin and a semi-automatic pistol valued at $300. Wall said he had $37.50 in checking and savings accounts.

Outside the Publix on Friday, assortments of flowers in red, yellow pink and blue leaned against the tiled wall. A stuffed ram, teddy bear and squirrel rested against the rainbow of flower petals.

The Publix was closed Friday, although shoppers who were there when the store erupted into chaos were allowed to come back for a few hours to retrieve items. Others hoping to do some shopping were turned away. The store is expected to reopen for business on Saturday.

An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the location of Wall’s business. It was not in the same plaza as the Publix.

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