ROYAL PALM BEACH — Timothy J. Wall posted on social media that he wanted to kill people — particularly children. The unemployed carpenter had displayed increasingly paranoid behavior for days. And Thursday morning, he appeared to be looking to bring his Facebook insanity to reality.
Wall found his victims at 11:35 a.m. Thursday, killing two strangers: a 69-year-old grandmother and her toddler grandson, nearly 2. They died while doing an everyday chore in one of the most communal of places: a Publix Super Market in Royal Palm Beach.
A former relative of Wall, the sister of his ex-wife, told The Palm Beach Post on Friday that the 55-year-old Acreage resident suffered from schizophrenia and that her sister had previously reached out to law enforcement for help.
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But Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw blasted the ex-wife and anybody who knew of Wall’s unhinged social media raging but who had failed to notify authorities.
“The real sad part of this, other than the fact that people are dead, is that there was a chance this could have been stopped,” Bradshaw said. “You know why? The reason is, he’s on Facebook. He has said, ‘I want to kill people and children.'”
Gunman’s path to shootings brought him to shopping plaza hours earlier
The sheriff’s office held a news conference Friday, offering a timeline of the events that led to the shootings.
Wall drove to the The Crossroads shopping plaza, at Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards, on a red scooter. Surveillance cameras caught him lurking in Walgreens and then again in Publix earlier in the morning, when he was apparently spooked off by a sheriff’s deputy buying groceries.
Wall entered the Publix, holding a golf putter, using it as a walking stick. He found his innocent victims in the produce aisle at 11:29 a.m.
Surveillance-camera video shows Wall watching victims across the produce section.
Wall then moved to the shopping cart and killed the child with one shot. The grandmother then instinctively attacked Wall. She almost had the upper hand when his gun jammed, but he pushed her down on the ground and shot her, Bradshaw said at the news conference.
Thirty people were inside the Publix at the time of the shooting.
The first sheriff’s deputy arrived three minutes after the attack and found all three people dead. Wall had shot himself in the head, sheriff’s officials said.
The names of the victims have not been released in accordance with a 2018 amendment to the state constitution, which allows crime victims or their families to withhold their names from public reports. It is modeled on California’s Marsy’s Law.
Bradshaw said if the sheriff’s office had been alerted to Wall’s mental deterioration, then deputies could have confiscated any weapon in his possession. He said Wall warned those around him with his behavior and his postings on social media.
“Obviously, there was some mental” instability, Bradshaw said. “If it sounds like I am angry, it’s because I am.”
Gunman had filed for bankruptcy, been evicted
Wall worked as a carpenter for a temp agency, had been legally evicted from his ex-wife’s home and had filed for bankruptcy, records show. He appeared to be a vagabond of late, living at motel efficiencies in the weeks before the shooting, records show.
He declared bankruptcy in January and listed as his possession an APC 45 semi-automatic handgun meant for use by police and the military. The sheriff’s office has not said what weapon Wall used to commit the murder-suicide.
The owner of the construction temp service who would sometimes hire Wall said the carpenter came off as “kind of off” but was one of his most timid workers.
He did hear from other workers that Wall told them he was living in a shed at one point. Wall also said he was playing the stock market and wouldn’t need to do construction jobs anymore.
The employer, who asked that his name not be published, said he called Wall for a job recently and that Wall told him, “No, I’m going through some stuff. I can’t really work.”
Maia Knight of Wellington is the sister of Wall’s ex-wife, Monica Sandra Wall. The Walls married in 2003 and divorced in July 2017.
“He had mental issues. He wasn’t taking care of himself,” Knight said. “My sister was going to the courthouse, going to police, telling everyone he needs help. My sister was trying to help him but didn’t know how.”
She said Timothy Wall wasn’t getting the help he needed for his mental illness, which she said was schizophrenia.
“He wasn’t really taking the medicine, and he had alcohol problems at one point,” she said. “He didn’t even want to help himself. My sister would say, ‘I can’t tell a grown man what to do do if he doesn’t want to do it himself.'”
The couple has a 14-year-old daughter. “She has been going through a tough time, seeing him like that,” Knight said.
A Palm Beach County circuit judge had allowed Timothy Wall to live in his marital home in Royal Palm Beach for a few months. But in May 2019, Monica Sandra Wall evicted him, court records show.
“She did evict him because he kept going back to her home and she was going to cops and getting no help,” Knight said.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond a Post email asking if Wall’s ex-wife had reached out previously for help with her husband’s mental illness.
Latest violent altercation in a Palm Beach County public space
Leah Tyron, a Royal Pam Beach resident, said her cousin spoke to the sheriff’s office.
“That guy had plans to do this before he even got here,” Tyron said. “He had the plan that he was going to do something to himself, and just happened to take somebody out with him.”
The tragedy is the second recent shooting at a retailer that is part of the everyday routine of residents in Palm Beach County.
Samuel Rossetti of Palm Springs was shot dead while in the drive-thru line of a Lake Worth Beach Starbucks in April following a confrontation with the car in front of him. The driver of that vehicle, Justin Ray Boersma, is facing a first-degree murder charge.
“(The shooting) makes me very cautious to have altercations with people,” Tyron said. “Here I would say something in the past if someone upset me. Now I probably won’t, because of the fact that Florida doesn’t take care of people with mental illness.”
Sarah Brown, a Loxahatchee resident and a hairstylist at Festive Cuts Beauty Salon in the Publix plaza, said customers and Publix employees took refuge at her business after the shooting.
“It was a normal day. I just had a consultation with my client, went to the back room to mix her color,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Then all of a sudden like a barrel of monkeys about 15 people — two even with carts ran into our small salon screaming ‘Active Shooter! Everyone get in lock the doors get away from the windows!!!’ “
She had the salon’s receptionist hold the door open as people rushed in, many of them panicked and hysterical.
“Unfortunately a couple people saw it happen and I can’t even imagine how horrific that was to witness,” she said.
The Publix is expected to reopen Saturday. Customers returned Friday morning to collect items they left behind. A tearful Anay Hernandez said the shooting makes her fear for the safety of her children.
“I don’t feel safe to go anywhere with my kids anymore,” she said. “I wanted to come by yesterday because I have medication in the pharmacy but, for some reason, I didn’t come by. … I was supposed to be here around 11.”
Brown, the hair stylist, said the shooting was a reminder that more stringent gun control was needed in the U.S. She said she is a gun owner.
“It needs to be harder to get a gun. I’m sorry, but it needs to be,” Brown said. “It won’t solve everything; I understand that. But it can solve or prevent some incidents like these.”
For Brown, she thought that it could have easily been her or any other unsuspecting member of the public in the Publix.
“The panic on these peoples’ faces also made me emotional since I’m extremely empathic,” she said. “That could’ve been me and my son.”
Deadliest recent shootings in Palm Beach County
June 2015: Greenacres grandmother Nilda Sheffield fatally shoots her daughter Elizabeth Flores and her daughter’s two children, 2-year-old Sofia Chiddo, and 7-year-old Xavier Neff.
September 2010: Patrick Dell burst into his estranged wife’s home in Riviera Beach and kills Natasha Whyte-Dell and four of her seven children. A fifth child was shot in the neck but survived.
January 2010: Wellington mortgage broker Neal Jacobson fatally shoots his wife and 7-year-old twin sons, Eric and Joshua.
November 2009: Paul Michael Merhige kills four family members at a Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter.
September 2002: Michael Roman executes five family members in a Lake Worth home.