TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The brother of a 20-year-old man, who authorities said opened fire at the Garden State Plaza mall before taking his own life, is speaking out for the first time since the shooting.
“My brother intended to harm nobody else but himself,” Kevin Shoop told reporters, including CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell, Tuesday. “He just sadly decided to make an act of self-indulgence by taking his own life publicly, and it’s a tragedy to us all.”
Chaos erupted shortly before 9:30 p.m. Monday when authorities said Richard Shoop of Teaneck fired at least six shots at random, causing a lockdown at the mall and prompting hundreds of law enforcement officers, including SWAT teams and K-9 units, to converge on the mall.
The rifle that Shoop used had been confiscated by police but was later returned, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.
Police had already identified Shoop as the shooter when they arrived at his family’s two-story colonial home just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, but authorities didn’t know where he was, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.
The house, which is four miles from the mall, was considered to be a place Shoop might flee to if he escaped the manhunt at the mall.
Police entered the home to search for Shoop and waited for two hours until officials confirmed his body was found at the mall around 3:20 a.m.
Police withdrew from the home leaving one police cruiser to stand guard as Shoop’s family home became a scene of mourning.
People have been coming to the Emerson Avenue home where Shoop was raised to express condolences to the family.
Neighbor Daniel Klapper said he has known the Shoop family for 20 years and watched Richard grow up.
“It’s a shocking thing for us,” Klapper said. “It’s a difficult time for his family and for him. Obviously, he felt that there was no way out for him.”
“He was mowing the lawn the other day,” said neighbor Mary Jane Tipton. “I never saw him do anything that was strange. I would have never imagined it, not in a million years. … I can’t even imagine what they [the family] must be going through.”
One neighbor told Young that he knew Shoop his whole life and called him a “sweet kid.”
Erika Ilgenfritz, another neighbor, said Shoop was “happy, friendly, always smiling. Wonderful, wonderful young man, and it’s a total shock.”
On Tuesday night Shoop’s brother remained silent as he stood with friends at a vigil for Richard. Earlier in the day he told reporters that Richard never intended to inflict harm upon anyone except himself.
But Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli painted a much different picture, describing the alleged shooter as a troubled drug user.
Shoop’s family told police he had a history of drug abuse, and relatives believe MDMA — also known as ecstasy or Molly — was his drug of choice, Molinelli said.
“He is known to law enforcement in several communities here in Bergen County,” Molinelli said.
At Victor’s Pizzeria, where Shoop worked for the past four years, manager Robert Gega was also stunned to learn Shoop was troubled.
“He was doing great,” Gega said. “Going to the gym, working here. Didn’t know anything about drugs.”
No one else was injured in the incident, and Molinelli said it appears Shoop did not intend to shoot anyone inside the mall.
Molinelli said, “It appears the main motive for what he did was suicide.”
“I do not believe that Mr. Shoop intended to come out of here alive,” he said. “We have a pretty good idea of what Mr. Shoop’s mind-set was over the last day or so, and it would be consistent with his actions here.”
Investigators said it was Shoop’s brother who called police Monday night when he heard about a gunman on the loose at the mall in Paramus.
The suspect’s brother had already been driving around the area looking for Shoop after finding a disturbing note that he had left behind and noticed his gun and helmet were missing.
Prosecutors said the weapon used in the shooting, which was modified to look like an AK-47 assault rifle, belongs to Shoop’s brother, who owned it legally, but don’t believe his family played any role in the incident.
Kevin Shoop said he had no advance warning about what his brother intended to do and that the shooting has left him devastated.
“This was something that none of us saw coming,” Kevin Shoop said. “We’re not sure what caused him to do this, and we’re devastated.”
As police continue to investigate, friends and family struggle with the loss.
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