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Sheriff on Louisiana gun store shooting: 'I don't know why'

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Bullet holes are seen on a vehicle at the scene of a multiple fatality shooting at the Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie, La. Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. A person went into a gun store and shooting range in a New Orleans suburb and fatally shot two people Saturday, causing customers and staff to open fire on the shooter, said a sheriff. The shooter also died..(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

METAIRIE, La. – An ammunition customer showed no sign of anger or agitation before he launched a sudden shooting rampage at a New Orleans area gun store, the local sheriff said Monday, two days after the attack left three people, including the shooter, dead.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto confirmed that Joshua Williams, 27, who had a legal permit to carry a gun, instigated the exchange of gunfire Saturday afternoon at the Gun Outlet in suburban Metairie.

“I don’t know why,” Lopinto said. “There are certain crimes that happen in your career and this is the one for me: There’s no reason that it ever should have turned into this event.”

Seven other people, all firearms-trained employees of the gun store and shooting range, fired at Williams before he was killed outside the building, Lopinto said. Two people were wounded.

Lopinto said Williams had walked into the store with a loaded weapon and was told that was against store rules. Interviews with witnesses and reviews of video indicate Williams showed no sign of anger or agitation before he walked to the front door as though he were going to exit. But he then fired into the air outside before firing his gun as he went in and out of the building multiple times.

Video released by the sheriff's office during a live-streamed news conference in Gretna shows part of what happened. It shows Williams at the door of the store, firing in. At another point it shows Williams inside taking aim at one of those killed, Veronica Billiot, 59, of Belle Chasse, also a customer. It shows him aiming in the area where employee Herbert “Noah" Fischbach, 47, of Jefferson, had taken cover behind a counter. And it shows him walking up and down a hallway in the building where a firearms class was underway.

It remained unclear Monday if the two people who were wounded were hit by gunfire from Williams or someone else.

Lopinto said Williams and his brother, Timothy Williams, had gone to the store with Timothy's two children to shop for ammunition. Joshua Williams had a loaded gun with an extended magazine. Noticing this, an employee told him that loaded guns were not allowed in the store.

“There was no argument between the two,” Lopinto said.

Timothy Williams fled the store with his children after the shooting started. Lopinto said he cooperated with authorities and couldn't explain his brother's behavior. He gave authorities a statement and “basically said his brother flipped out,” Lopinto said.

Lopinto said Fischbach was one of the employees who returned fire once the shooting began. However, he had taken cover behind a counter and was on the floor with his back toward Williams when he was killed, likely unaware that Williams had reentered the store after going outside.

Fischbach's wife Nancy told The Times-Picayune(backslash)The New Orleans Advocate that her husband was a special effects specialist and an armorer who supervised weapon usage on film sets. She said had been working at the gun shop because of COVID-19 restrictions on the film industry. She believes he died helping people inside the store.

“He bent over backwards for everybody. ... He would not hurt anybody unless they did something wrong," she said.

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The name of the New Orleans newspaper has been corrected in this story.