Flags fly over crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP)

VOA Special Report

Retail shootings

Mass shootings (1966 - 2019)

The first retail shooting of the modern era took place in 1966 at a salon on a beauty school campus in Mesa, Arizona.

The shooter opened fire on a group of cosmetology students, and a customer and her children, killing five people, including a toddler.

Mass shootings are defined by the Congressional Research Service as having four or more victims.

The attack was considered the first copycat mass shooting in the country, with the perpetrator seeking fame and appearing to emulate the massacre at the University of Texas, which took place three months earlier and received widespread media attention.

One in five mass shooters (22%) studied other mass shooters, according to The Violence Project, leading to a contagion effect in which one shooting can influence the next.

Shootings at retail establishments have taken place in every decade since the 1960s, but have increased in recent years.

Half of the retail shootings between 1966 and 2019 have occurred in the past 15 years, with venues, including a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, a car wash in in Saltlick Township, Pennsylvania, and a gas station in Detroit, Michigan.

The deadliest took place in 2019 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, near the border with Mexico. The shooter allegedly told police he was targeting Hispanics. Three Mexicans were among the 22 people killed in that attack. The shooter was charged with federal hate crimes.

Another prominent shooting took place outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. The perpetrator targeted a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot attended by U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a major brain injury. Six people died, and 13 others were injured.

Retail mass shooting locations Fatalities and retail location mass shootings

Circles scaled according to the number of fatalities.

Jillian Peterson, Ph.D., and James Densley, Ph.D., built a new database of mass shooters that they hope will inform future research and policy decisions about how to effectively prevent and respond to mass shootings.

For their study, they used the Congressional Research Service’s definition of a mass shooting:

“a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms — not including the offender(s) — within one event, and at least some of the murders occurred in a public location or locations in close geographical proximity (e.g., a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public settings), and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle).”

About the data

All shooters have either been charged, convicted or killed at the scene.

In two years, the team collected more than 100 pieces of information on each of 171 mass shooters, resulting in The Violence Project Database of Mass Shootings in the United States, 1966-2019.

They compiled details on hundreds of factors, including age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, education, relationship status, number of children, employment type and status, military service and branch, criminal, violence and abuse history, gang and terrorist affiliation, bullying, home environment and trauma.

What emerged were fleshed-out profiles and motivations of individual shooters, whose crimes can potentially influence current and future policy and prevention.

Retail shootings (1966 - 2019)

While there is no single profile of a mass shooter, there are several similar characteristics of shooters who commit crimes at a retail establishment.

According to The Violence Project database, a retail shooter tends to be a white man, around 30 years old, with a criminal record and violent history. He usually has no connection to the location and tends to use one legally owned handgun.

Seventy-one percent of retail shooters had a history of mental illnesses and nearly a third (29%) had a thought disorder, which includes schizophrenia and psychosis. A quarter had a mood disorder, which includes depression and bipolar disorder.

Eighty-three percent had a criminal record, 29% had employment troubles and 21% served in the military.

Retail shooters are more likely to be strangers to their victims than shooters at most other locations. While at least 70% of mass shooters knew at least some of their victims, only 58% of retail shooters knew their victims.

Half of retail shooters were white and 42% were minorities. The average age of retail shooters is 34. That is higher than the average age of shooters who carried out killings at schools (18) or colleges (28), but lower than the average age of workplace shooters (37).

Number of shooters by age

Years old

Retail shooting victims

Nov. 12, 1966 Mary Olsen • Glenda Carter • Carol Farmer • Joyce Sellers • Debra Sellers May 29, 1972 Jackie Wharton • James G. Henry • Melvin D. Harrison Jr. • Jessie West Oct. 16, 1981 Roger Click • Michael Halbert • Jarvey Hamilton • Rufus Hamilton • Roger Hatfield Aug. 20, 1982 Nelson Barrios • Loni Jeffries • Carl Lee • Ernestine Moore • Magnum Moore • Martha Steelman • Juan Tres Palacios • Pedro Vasques April 23, 1987 Emad Al-Tawakuly • Nabil Al-Hameli • Gerald Douglas Johnson • Ronald Midgely Grogan • Ruth Greene • Lester Watson Sept. 22, 1988 Arthur Baker • John Van Dyke • Robert Quinn • Irma Ruiz June 18, 1990 Louis Carl Bacon • Jewel Belote • Julia White Burgess • Janice David • Doretta Drake • Sharon Louise Hall • Denise Sapp Highfill • Barbara Duckwall Holland • Cynthia Perry • Lee Simonton • Drew Woods Dec. 31, 1994 Deborah Hunter • Jamie Hunter • Steve Locklear • Tim Powell Dec. 19, 1995 Quong Bae • Maria Carrasquillo • Rafael Gonzalez • Ricardo Gonzalez • Henry Lucero Inga June 3, 1999 Thomas Darnell • Chuck Leos • Dennis Sargent • Lucy Tarantino Jan. 9, 2001 Chong Chang • Hyung Chang • Kathy Chang • Byong Sun July 3, 2001 Juan Manuel Hernandez-Carrillo • Melquiades Medrano-Velasquez • Juan Carlos Medrano-Velasquez • Angelica Toscano Feb. 12, 2007 Teresa Ellis • Brad Frantz • Kirsten Hinckley • Vanessa Quinn • Jeffery Walker Dec. 5, 2007 Beverly Flynn • Gary Joy • Janet Jorgensen • John McDonald • Gary Scharf • Angie Schuster • Dianne Trent • Maggie Webb Nov. 1, 2009 Javier Manuel Martinez • Juan Manuel Martinez • Victor Alfonso Martinez-Jimemiz • Marcos Oviedo Aguilar Jan. 8, 2011 Christina-Taylor Green • Dorothy Morris • John Roll • Phyllis Schneck • Dorwan Stoddard • Gabe Zimmerman Oct. 12, 2011 Victoria Buzzo • David Caouette • Randy Lee Fannin • Michele Daschbach Fast • Michelle Marie Fournier • Lucia Bernice Kondas • Laura Webb • Christy Lynn Wilson March 13, 2013 Harry Montgomery • Michael Ransear • Michael Renshaw • Thomas Stefka Sept. 23, 2016 Beatrice Dotson • Wilton “Chuck” Eagan • Belinda Galde • Sarai Lara • Shayla Martin March 22, 2017 Karen Barclay • Dianne Look • Sara Quirt Sann • Jason Weiland Jan. 28, 2018 Chelsie Cline • Seth Cline • Cortney Snyder • William Porterfield Feb. 26, 2018 Cierra Bargaineer • Raphael Hall • Ja-Mon Thomas • Kristin Thomas Jan. 23, 2019 Debra Cook • Marisol Lopez • Jessica Montague • Ana Piñon-Williams • Cynthia Lee Watson Aug. 3, 2019 Jordan Anchondo • Andre Pablo Anchondo • Arturo Benavidez • Leonardo Campos Jr. • Maribel Campos • Juan de Dios Velázquez Chairez • Angelina Silva Englisbee • Maria Flores • Raul Flores • Jorge Calvillo Garcia • Adolfo Cerros Hernández • Alexander Gerhard Hoffman • David Alvah Johnson • Luis Alfonzo Juarez • Gloria Irma Márquez • Ivan Filiberto Manzano • Elsa Mendoza de la Mora • Sara Esther Regalado Moriel • Margie Reckard • Javier Amir Rodriguez • María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe • Teresa Sanchez

* Includes victims who died as a result of the shooting, in some cases decades later due to injuries suffered at the scene.