BISMARCK, N.D. — Preliminary autopsy results indicate that a U.S. airman was drunk when he opened fire in a Grand Forks Wal-Mart store, killing one worker and injuring a second employee before killing himself.
Marcell Willis, 21, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, more than double North Dakota's legal limit for driving of 0.08, police said Wednesday. The number will be double-checked and might be revised slightly in the final autopsy report but there is no doubt Willis was legally drunk when he pulled the trigger, police Lt. Derik Zimmel said.
What Willis had been drinking and for how long before the shooting are details of the investigation that aren't being publicly released, Zimmel said. He also declined to say whether the two people who were with Willis before the shooting indicated to police that he had been drinking. Those two people are being treated as witnesses, not suspects.
Willis was a senior airman stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Police say he walked into the store about 1 a.m. on May 26 and shot and killed cashier Gregory Weiland, 70. Willis then shot and wounded overnight grocery general manager Lisa Braun, 47, who was released from a hospital over the weekend. A telephone listing for her was not in service Wednesday.
Willis killed himself after shooting the two workers with a handgun. The autopsy concluded that he died of a gunshot wound to the head.
The final autopsy results expected in 4-6 weeks will show whether Willis also had any legal or illegal drugs in his system, and whether he might have been suffering from any physical illnesses or diseases, Zimmel said. The final report is unlikely to shed any light on whether Willis might have been suffering from mental illness, however.
"I would not think so unless a mental illness had a physical component," Zimmel said. "We won't be able to necessarily know how his brain processed information and how he perceived things."
Police continue to interview witnesses but are no closer to determining a motive.
"I'm not sure we're ever going to be able to satisfactorily answer that," Zimmel said. "Acts such as this defy, I think, rational explanation."