Mall shooting baffles relatives of gunman
TEANECK, N.J. — Relatives and friends of a young man who fired shots in New Jersey’s largest mall, trapping terrified shoppers for hours before killing himself, struggled Tuesday to reconcile those actions with a person they described as pleasant and well-liked.
Investigators don’t believe the gunman, identified as 20-year-old Richard Shoop, intended to shoot anyone when he began firing at the ceiling and elsewhere at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, about 15 miles northwest of New York City, shortly before the mall closed Monday night. There were no other injuries.
“We think he went in with the intent that he was not going to come out alive,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.
“He told me that he was going to get a new job at this TV place and he was going to make good money,” said Madison Barbarini, who claimed she knew Shoop since they were little. “He told me that he was doing really well and it seemed like he was really happy. Things just don’t add up. Why would he do this? It doesn’t make sense.”
The friend she knew “honestly would never hurt a fly,” Barbarini added.
The suspect’s brother, Kevin Shoop, told reporters outside their home on a quiet suburban block in Teaneck that his brother was “a great person” who was liked by friends and family and gave no advance warning about what he intended to do.
“He just sadly decided to make an act of — an act of, I guess, self-indulgence — by taking his own life publicly,” Kevin Shoop said.
Dod Geges, the owner of a pizzeria in Teaneck where Shoop worked for several years, said Shoop didn’t show violent tendencies and “was always sad” when he heard about shootings on TV.
Shoop left an ambiguous note with his family that raised concern, however. Molinelli, the prosecutor, would not call it a suicide note, but he said it did “express that an end is coming. It could have been prison. ... It could have been what he did last night. It gave his family reason to reach out to us.”
It is not known whether Shoop had any mental health problems. Authorities said he had a known drug problem.