Collierville Strong: Mid-South remembers victims of Kroger mass shooting 1 year later

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:39 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2022 at 7:57 AM CDT
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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - One year ago, on Sept. 23, 2021, a gunman walked inside a Kroger on New Byhalia Road in Collierville and opened fire. The suspect killed one person and injured 14 others.

Today, the community and Action News 5 are remembering the victims of the tragic incident and the quick action from first responders to resolve the situation.

The Collierville mass shooting was something that shook, not only, the community but the entire state of Tennessee. Collierville has worked to rebuild ever since prompting the slogan Collierville Strong.

The man behind it all -- a disgruntled sushi chef who’d been fired hours before he went on a rampage through the store. Uk Thang was told to go home earlier in the day and came back in the afternoon armed with three guns and then opened fire.

Haunting images remain in the minds of tens of thousands of Mid-Southerners. Many of you know where you were when you learned there was a mass shooting at the Kroger in Collierville. For people who were inside during the shooting, it’s not only something they won’t forget but also something they still think about nearly every day.

Hollie Skaggs and Marjorie Weldele didn’t know each other before this shooting, now both are friends, forever bonded by the triumph and tragedy of surviving the shooting.

“If someone just says September 23rd or we’ll just say Kroger it plays through my head like a movie and I can see it unfold,” said Weldele.

Skaggs says the tries to remember she was in the right place at the wrong time.

Weldele said she usually never shops at that Kroger and never goes during the middle of the day but was coming out of a doctor’s appointment.

“I’d made it to bananas like right at the fruit and I heard a pop and I turned and I saw the shooter right at the deli he had the employees blocked in...shooting,” she remembered. “He just walked right in the door. Well, I was facing the other way but he literally walked right in the door and just got to blocking the employees in by the deli cases, the only exit and just started shooting.”

Weldele was shot on the side of the leg.

“But at the time that I was struck, I was pulling this woman down. And so instead of going through my leg and taking out the main artery or the bone, it went up my leg and the bullet is wedged in my backside,” she said.

She was shot in the very back of the store -- outside in the dock area with another woman who was in a motorized cart and was shot. Both played dead to survive.

“I pulled her down and we hit the ground and I said play dead. So we played dead,” Weldele recalled.

While Weldele was fighting to survive, Skaggs was hiding with two other women near the meat area crouched down and terrified in silence.

“I’m behind boxes. OK, we were like in a little spot,” said Skaggs. “I was actually not squatting but I was standing in an awkward position. The other girl that was with me, Sarah while she had a gun. And we were like, ready. Ms. Anna -- she was sitting in the middle of us holding our purses praying the whole time.”

Praying for all of it to end.

A few moments later the gunman, who was about 20 feet away from Skaggs, turned the gun on himself. Skaggs said she didn’t have to wait until the coast was clear -- police officers were already on the scene.

According to investigation records, the police arrived on the scene 52 seconds after the first shot was fired.

Kroger issued a statement on the first anniversary of the shooting:

“What happened at our Collierville Store on September 23, 2021, was senseless and heartbreaking. The life of Olivia King will forever be etched upon our hearts, and she will never be forgotten. We are grateful to Collierville Police Department, first responders, and the many heroes who emerged that day. Now, a year later we acknowledge a tremendous milestone in our healing journey. We can find comfort in coming together and connecting with neighbors and friends, stronger.”

The sole victim that died, Olivia King, was loved by her community. Kroger installed a garden in the parking lot of the store in her memory. She will also be remembered by friends and family later Friday.

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