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Nurse was treating gunshot victim when she was killed in Arkansas mass shooting

Death toll rises to 3 in Arkansas shooting
Death toll rises to 3 in Arkansas shooting; suspect in custody 05:00

Callie Weems was reveling in her new role as a mom in the months before a gunman in Arkansas fatally shot her at a grocery store.

Her daughter Ivy, now 10 months old, was a constant source of entertainment and wonder, Weems' mother, Helen Browning, 53, said in a phone interview on Sunday as she shared memories of her daughter.

Weems, 23, was among four people fatally wounded and another 11 injured - including the alleged gunman - in the shooting at the Mad Butcher store in Fordyce, Arkansas, on Friday, according to authorities. Just an hour before, Weems was marveling that her little girl had let her sleep in until 9 a.m. that morning.

"'I bet you feel like a new mom,'" Browning recalled texting back.

It was the last conversation they had before police say 44-year-old Travis Eugene Posey, of New Edinburg, opened fire at the store, riddling cars with bullet holes as panicked bystanders ducked and scrambled for cover amid a barrage of gunfire.

Weems, a nurse, died helping another gunshot victim, Arkansas State Police Director Mike Hagar said on Sunday.

Callie Weems, a nurse, died helping another gunshot victim, police said Sunday GoFundMe

"Instead of fleeing the store, she stopped to render aid in one of the most selfless acts I've ever seen," he said at a news conference.

In all, state police said 15 people were shot Friday, including 12 civilians, two law enforcement officers, and the gunman.

It was at least the third mass shooting at a U.S. grocery in the last three years. In 2022, a white supremacist killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket. That came a little more than a year after 10 people were fatally shot at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Police said Sunday that Posey's motive was still unclear, but he appeared to have no personal connection to any of the victims.

He carried a 12-gauge shotgun, a pistol and a bandolier with dozens of extra shotgun rounds, authorities said. He fired most, if not all, of the rounds, using the shotgun, opening fire at people in the parking lot before entering the store and firing "indiscriminately" at customers and employees, Hagar said.

Fordyce police and Dallas County sheriff's deputies arrived within minutes, and Posey exited the store and exchanged gunfire with them before they shot him and took him into custody.

For Browning, the tragedy was amplified by her connection to another victim, Roy Sturgis, 50, who was also shot and killed. She said Sturgis was part of her extended family, a logger and a loving father to his daughter.

"Roy was as country as cornbread," she said. "He lived a simple life. He was a simple man."

The other victims who died were identified as Shirley Taylor, 62, and Ellen Shrum, 81.

Taylor took care of her husband, who had diabetes, and crocheted, her daughter, Angela Atchley, told CBS affiliate KTHV in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"She was our family rock," Atchley said.

"Like a war zone"

Fordyce, a city of about 3,200 people located 65 miles south of Little Rock, was reeling from the shooting, city council member Roderick Rogers said Sunday.

He went to the grocery store on Friday after people there called for his help.

"It was like a war zone," Rogers said, describing the gunman shooting "like crazy" in the parking lot.

One witness, David Rodriguez, was at a gas station next to the grocery store when the shooting started. He told CBS News he pulled into the gas station and "heard some popping" and at first he thought it was fireworks. Then, he said, he heard the sirens and saw the police pull up, and "people just started running all over the place."

Rodriguez took out his cell phone and started filming moments after he heard the shots. "There is someone lying in the parking lot shot," he can be heard saying.

Rodriguez told CBS News, "It was quite a scare." 

Ken Vanderzwalm, who worked three doors down from the grocery store at a lawn mower supplier, told CBS News several people ran into their shop when the shooting started, "crying and screaming." Vanderzwalm, a former police officer, who said he was armed, said he let the people know they would "be safe" inside the building. 

"We had a lot of kids who were really traumatized," he said.

Emergency vehicles are seen at the scene of a shooting incident in Fordyce
Emergency vehicles are seen at the scene of a shooting incident in Fordyce, Arkansas, U.S. June 21, 2024, in this screen grab obtained from social media video. South Arkansas Reckoning/Suzy Parker/via REUTERS

Residents in the tight-knit community worried about victims who were still in the hospital and even about the possibility of another shooting, he said.

"A lot of people are frightened," he said. "They want to feel safe right now."

Hagar said the officers and deputies who responded to the scene knew the shooter and the victims, making the attack particularly difficult and personal.

The wounded range in age from 20 to 65, police said. Five were still hospitalized, including a woman in critical condition.

Police said Posey, who was in custody at the Ouachita County Detention Center, will be charged with four counts of capital murder.

A state police spokesperson said Sunday she believed Posey had an attorney, but she did not know the person's name.

Browning said Posey went to school with her youngest sister, and she never would have thought he could do something so violent.

She plans to raise Ivy now.

"She will know that her mother loved her," she said. "And that she was the sunshine of momma's eyes."

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