Dallas County authorities say the customer who shot and killed a gun-wielding man inside an Orrville dollar store had a valid concealed carry permit.
Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson has identified the customer as Marlo Ellis, 37, of Orrville. Authorities say Ellis shot and killed Kevin McLaughlin around 12:45 p.m. Thursday at the Dollar General on Highway 22 in Orrville.
Officials say McLaughlin walked into the store waving a gun in the air and forced a cashier and Ellis at gunpoint towards a break room. At that point, Ellis pulled out a concealed weapon and shot McLaughlin once in the chest.
"He escorted a customer who was trying to leave the store and a cashier toward a break room. The cashier went in first and the customer went in behind her, and the individual had the gun on the customer and the customer had a pistol concealed in a holster," Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman said. "And when the customer got to the door, he turned around and shot the individual."
McLaughlin was pronounced dead at the scene. The tense ordeal played out in less than five minutes, police said.
Other customers and delivery men were inside the store at the time of the incident. Several customers making their way into the store saw McLaughlin waving a gun and ran away.
The Dollar General store was closed Thursday afternoon following the shooting. A sign on the front door indicated it would reopen Friday. There was another sign on the doors of the business stating that open carry of a weapon was not allowed inside the store. According to the sheriff, Ellis' gun was concealed and inside a holster.
"The deceased individual had his in his hand, waving it. The customer actually had one in a holster covered up. We're in the process of checking on permits and all of that. To have a gun concealed, you need a permit. To carry it open carry, you don't. But you have a sign in a place of business, that's letting you know that the people inside that place of business do not want guns in there," the sheriff said.
The investigation is ongoing and detectives are interviewing everyone who was present at the time of the shooting and reviewing surveillance footage of the incident. The security video has not yet been released but the sheriff said it would be "forthcoming."
No other customers or employees were injured.
Sheriff Huffman says his department's findings would be turned over to a grand jury for review. He says the incident is currently being called a death investigation.
"You have one individual waving a gun and you have another one who shoots the one waving the gun. Some people say that's justifiable. Then you're going to have some who says it's not. I think we need to get all of the information we can get from everybody and then go forward from there," the sheriff said in an interview.
McLaughlin's motive remains unclear. Sheriff Huffman does not think it was a robbery. He says words were exchanged between McLaughlin and the people inside the store but there was never any mention of a robbery or hold up or a demand for money.
An autopsy will be conducted on McLaughlin by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
Local residents reacted Thursday as news of the incident spread.
"It's a shame because we never had anything like this done in this area before. Now we fear the streets when we walk into stores and stuff. It's very shocking. I hate what happened," said Nicole Miller.
On Friday, District Attorney Michael Jackson said he doesn't expect Marlo Ellis to face any charges in the incident at the Dollar General.
"In Alabama you have the right to defend yourself or a third party so when the perpetrator went in there with a gun anybody in the store had the right to deadly force and that's what happened so he actually was a Good Samaritan in this situation because other people could have been injured if he hadn't taken action," Jackson told WSFA.
As for McLaughlin's intentions, he said there were "rumors and speculations" circulating that would be sorted out in the course of the investigation.
"I don't know why he went in there waving a gun at the people. Whatever reason he went in there for, it was very serious. Anytime someone goes into store and points guns at people, then anybody in the store has the right to use deadly force against that person," he added.
Jackson confirmed that Marlo Ellis, the customer who used deadly force, is facing charges of rape in the second degree and enticing a child for immoral purposes, stemming from a 2013 investigation involving a girl under the age of 16. Court documents state that Ellis picked the victim up at a school basketball game and drove her to his house where they had sex. The district attorney said Ellis' case is on the trial docket for February. He has been out of jail on bond.
Jackson tells WSFA that Ellis was within his rights to have a concealed carry permit because he has not been convicted in the sex case.