Richland Fred Meyer shooter: A tale of fraying mental health and early warnings

Local police say the man who shot two people Monday at a crowded Richland Fred Meyer grocery store had been experiencing deteriorating mental health for weeks.

One man died at the scene and another remains in critical condition.

early warnings

There were warnings that suspect Aaron Kelly was breaking down, but they went unheeded.

Police say Kelly was known to employees of Kennewick Fred Meyer as a frequent shoplifter. He walked into the store last Thursday, February 3, and a worker took a photo of him next to his car, a silver 2005 Honda Civic. An employee at the Kennewick store contacted Richland police after Monday’s shooting, believing it might be Kelly.

Officers then contacted Kelly’s former roommate, Bryant Scott, who they say reported that Kelly has been “in a mental spiral and is very paranoid.” Scott also told police that he had seen Kelly with a 9mm pistol.

Scott had already severed his business relationship with Kelly.

According to court records, Bryant Scott sought protection from Kelly’s alleged harassment in late 2020. Public documents show the Tri-Cities Area Superior Court Judge in the case, Samuel P. Swanberg, denied Scott’s request. of a protection order.

That court hearing was on October 22, 2020. A little over fifteen months later, Kelly walked into the Fred Meyer store in Richland.

Judge Swanberg himself was recently removed from his duties while under investigation for allegations of domestic violence.

the shooting

At about 11 a.m. Monday, Aaron Kelly walked into a Richland Fred Meyer, pushing a cart containing a backpack and a duffel bag, he said. Interim Richland Police Chief Brigit Clary.

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The Benton County Prosecutor’s Office said Kelly then walked into aisle 14 of the store. Clary said Kelly had a 10- to 15-second conversation with Justin Krumbah, 38, a shopper.

After the conversation, Krumbah walked away, according to court documents.

Kelly then pulled out a 9mm pistol and shot Krumbah, Clary said. After the victim fell to the ground, Kelly shot him several more times. according to the Benton County Prosecutor.

Kelly then walked out of the hallway and shot another person near the customer service area, according to court documents. That victim remains in critical condition as of Tuesday night.

It took only a minute for police to arrive at the store after receiving the first 911 calls. When police first entered the store, Kelly was still there but managed to leave before meeting officers, Clary said.

After a half-day chase, Kelly was stopped on a lonely stretch of Interstate 90 as he headed north toward Spokane, Washington.

Prosecutors say both shootings were “premeditated.”

The reduction

According to Richland Police Department officials, Kelly’s mental state was deteriorating prior to this week’s shooting. Clary said that she was distancing herself from her friends and family.

Bryant Scott rented a room in his Pasco home from Kelly for a time, through Airbnb. He says that he later tried to get Kelly out of her house.

“Being around Aaron was like having a living ghost,” Scott said. “You know he’s there, you don’t want him to be there and there’s nothing you can do about it. When he arrives, you feel uncomfortable. You want him to disappear and he won’t. And he just goes back and forth and you’re always on edge.”

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Eventually, Scott says, he filed a lawsuit against Kelly and ended up selling his house to break up the relationship.

After the shooting, Scott saw the photo that Richland police distributed on social media. He contacted police and helped identify Kelly and her car, a silver 2005 Honda Civic.

arraignment

Kelly appeared Tuesday in Benton County Superior Court, wearing a green V-neck prison jumpsuit and a white face mask.

At the in-person preliminary hearing, Kelly waived her right to a speedy trial and asked the court to delay her arraignment for 15 days.

Judge Joseph Burrowes held bail at $1 million.

Kelly is charged with first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree premeditated murder.

His arraignment hearing was set for 8:30 am on February 23.

“Good luck, sir,” Burrowes said at the end of Kelly’s hearing.

The victims

A former employee who knew the family of Justin Krumbah, the deceased victim, created a GoFundMe account for Krumbah’s funeral and another for the other victim’s family to cover medical expenses.

“Justin was always a breath of fresh air and sunshine,” commented Anna Michele Berens of Krumbah’s fundraising.

“My family and I shop at Fred Meyer a lot,” wrote another donor about the surviving victim, a Fred Meyer employee. “He always has a smile on his face and he’s whistling.”

On Facebook, the West Benton Fire Department posted that due to a national blood shortage, the local blood bank ran out of compatible blood and had to ship blood from Spokane for the victim in surgery, according to the post.

The American Red Cross Northwest Region encouraged blood donors to schedule a donation time.

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“Right now, we are providing the local hospital with the products they need. We would like to remind the community that it is the blood that is already on the shelves that helps people in their time of need,” the American Red Cross Northwest Region posted on Facebook.

Dori Luzzo Gilmour and Courtney Flatt contributed to this report, which was edited by Christy George.

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