Six people were injured at a Walmart store last night, after a (Muslim?) man opened fire during an argument in a check-out line. The incident began just after 6 p.m. at the Cedarbrook Plaza Shopping Center Walmart.
The Inquirer (h/t Grant B) Suspect (photo above) has been identified as Keenan Jones, 30, and has been charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder.
(Though Jones hasn’t yet been identified as a Muslim – and knowing the media, he never will be – the beard and the distinct prayer bump on his forehead, common to devout Muslims who bang their heads on the floor 5 times a day in prayer, there is a strong likelihood that he is a Muslim convert. It is not uncommon for African-Americans who convert to Islam to keep their birth name, rather than changing it to an Arabic one. Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison who is a convert to Islam, uses his original name)
Keenan Jones, 30, was arraigned Wednesday morning in district court in Cheltenham, a few miles from where the chaotic scene unfolded hours earlier. He is also accused of assaulting and injuring two Philadelphia police officers during a scuffle after crashing into their vehicle near the store.
A woman who accompanied Jones to the Walmart, identified as his sister, is cooperating with investigators and does not face criminal charges at this time, according to court officials.
Jones was granted $1 million bail by District Judge Christopher J. Cerski, who noted that Jones’ prior criminal record – which includes felony convictions for witness intimidation and carrying a gun without a license – made him a flight risk.
At his arraignment, conducted remotely because Jones remained in custody at the Cheltenham police station. He told the judge he has mental-health issues and had thought that his life was in danger at the store. “I need hospital help,” Jones said. “I haven’t slept in five days. I had food that had me feeling strange.” (Sure, you did. Heh!)
His violent outburst at the Walmart began just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to a criminal affidavit filed in the case. Surveillance video from inside the store showed Jones standing in a checkout line. He pulled out a black semiautomatic handgun and fired a single round at a man standing nearby, hitting him.
“Jones then begins to run through the front of the store and is seen firing additional rounds indiscriminately as the victims, employees, and customers run for safety,” the affidavit states, describing the scene as “pandemonium.”
Cheltenham Police Chief John Frye said at the store Tuesday that Jones had pulled the handgun from his sister’s waistband and fired at least 10 rounds in quick succession. Authorities said Jones’ sister owned the gun and was licensed to carry it.
Ultimately, three people were struck by gunfire: two women and a man, all in their 40s. Two other people were grazed by bullets, police said, and a pregnant woman was knocked to the ground during the chaos.
One of the victims, a female employee, told police she was standing near the store’s customer service area when she heard what she believed to be glass breaking near the registers. As she walked toward the area, she said, she saw Jones walking away, holding a gun. As she got closer, police said, Jones shot at her, hitting her three times.
Jones and his sister then fled the store in a Pontiac Grand Prix. At the corner of Cheltenham and Mount Pleasant Avenues, a witness saw Jones get out of the vehicle and discard a gun. Police later recovered the firearm, discovering that both its magazine and chamber were empty, “indicating that all rounds had been fired from the handgun,” according to the affidavit.
A few blocks away, at Sedgwick Street and Forrest Avenue within the city limits, the sedan crashed into a parked Philadelphia police car, there on an unrelated matter. The officers inside the vehicle took Jones into custody after a “violent struggle,” according to the affidavit. One of the officers fractured his wrist; another suffered a black eye and sprained ankle.
Elements of Jones’ most recent arrest are similar to other crimes he’s been charged with, court records show.