Business owners on Main Street in Branford say the area around Cherry Hill Road is tight-knit, so it came as a surprise Wednesday afternoon when officials named Matthew Walker as the shooting suspect, and no one really knew much about him.
John Chambers is the owner of Shelly’s Garden Center and said a few weeks ago he helped Walker get inside his apartment next door when he was locked out. He didn’t think much about him.
Then Tuesday afternoon, Chambers was on the ground, trying to avoid getting hit by bullets reportedly being shot from that same apartment.
“I ducked behind this pallet right here and he had a clean shot at me,” said Chambers.
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There were hours of panic that followed, as police say Walker shot at anything and didn’t appear to have a target. They arrived 90 seconds after the 911 call and arrived under heavy gunfire. Police said they exchanged shots with Walker.
Chambers said Walker shot at his home and delivery truck. He was able to move inside when Walker took aim at police.
“They shot my whole truck up over here in the driveway, they shot up the side of my house over there,” said Chambers.
Colleen Hainesworth owns Angel Paws across the street from the building where Walker was allegedly shooting.
“One of the holes, in the building that’s down low, there’s a crate right behind there,” said Hainesworth, pointing out several bullet holes in the building’s exterior.
She said Angel Paws was closed on Tuesday, so no one was in the building. And no animals were in the crate, although noon was pickup time on days they are open. Hainesworth said on a day that they're open, there would be about seven people lined up outside waiting to get their animals at that time.
Near the garden center, Larry Stoup said he saw several people filling up at his shop “Pepe’s Service Center.” It was the owner of a liquor store that sits between the garden center and the car shop.
“He said ‘Larry I think I’ve been hit,’” said Stoup. “I went out and got him inside the building.”
Video from employees inside showed police coming down Main Street with shields and moments later, there’s the sound of gunshots. Stoup said he was able to keep the man safe while they waited for an ambulance.
“I got him inside the building and stabilized him until the SWAT team could get him out because the paramedics, they wouldn’t allow them into the area,” said Stoup.
That was the only victim in Tuesday’s shooting and police said he’s in stable condition.
“We are very, very fortunate that more lives were not lost due to this incident,” said Deputy Chief John Alves of the Branford Police Department.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, police detailed the events of the day saying the suspect was the only person in the building and they found him at 6 p.m.
Bullet holes could be found all around Main Street on Wednesday as officers continued processing the area. They said it will take them a while to complete the investigation into the suspect and any possible motives.
“All the businesses around here, we all know each other, we frequent each other’s establishments and we all look out for each other so it’s sad to see someone was right in the middle of all this and we didn’t know,” said Hainesworth.