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Published: 10/9/2008

Mall shooting suspect upset over purchase

ASSOCIATED PRESS

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. The fatal shooting of a store employee and gun battle with police in a Knoxville shopping mall began as a complaint over a clothing purchase, authorities said Thursday.

William Johnson who faces charges of murder, aggravated kidnapping, and attempted murder in the Wednesday shootings acted alone and targeted the store, police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said.

This shooting did not occur just because the store was at the mall, he said. It occurred because the suspect was upset over a previous clothing purchase.

Johnson, 42, came to the shopping center around 4:20 p.m. Wednesday determined to get satisfaction from Reno Mens Wear for clothing he had bought there. Neighboring merchants said the store had a no-return policy and Johnson s complaint was about a suit.

Minutes after Johnson entered the store, 29-year-old employee Ahmed Nahl was dead and Johnson was being taken to a hospital for wounds in the leg and arm after a shootout with two police officers.

The investigation was continuing Thursday and Johnson, hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries, had yet to be interviewed.

Johnson described by neighbor Johnnie Brown as built like a football player, unemployed, and on disability because of a kidney condition entered the clothing store looking for service. He carried a 9 mm handgun without a permit.

Nahl, a native of Egypt who came to this country on a lottery visa, followed Johnson into the store, where he d worked for less than a year, witnesses said. He d been playing with his infant daughter out in the mall, talking with other shopkeepers about plans for the baby s first birthday in two weeks.

There was a confrontation between the suspect and Nahl inside the store, DeBusk said. The customer pulled out the handgun and shot Nahl, then ordered another customer to the ground. A few moments later, the suspect shot the victim a few more times, DeBusk said. He refused to say what the men might have said to each other.

Knox County Commissioner Greg Lambert, who has a permit to carry a handgun, said he was visiting a dentist s office in the mall when he heard the shots. He ran over because he knew the security guards were unarmed, he said.

Lambert said he talked to the suspect at the store before police arrived, but he would not reveal what they said. The commissioner said he never drew his gun and stayed outside the store to wait for police.

I felt that the wisest thing to do was back out and be sure the situation was contained, he said. I was prepared to defend myself or others if he came out shooting, but that wasn t the case.

Two uniformed police officers and mall security arrived. The officers shouted to the suspect to drop his gun. Instead the man shot at them. The officers returned fire. It was over in less than 4 minutes, DeBusk said.



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