Rite Aid gunman was suicidal, father told police

The Grand Junction man suspected of pulling a gun on and assaulting a Rite Aid Pharmacy employee Tuesday purchased the weapon earlier that day and fired it outside his apartment minutes before he entered the pharmacy, according to an arrest affidavit released Wednesday.

In addition, around the time his son entered the pharmacy, the father of 26-year-old Benjamin Gamil Awad called police to report Awad was suicidal.

Awad made his first appearance in court Wednesday afternoon and was advised he could face a felony charge of menacing with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor charges of prohibited use of a weapon, carrying a concealed weapon and harassment. He is being held in the Mesa County Jail on $5,000 bond.

According to the affidavit, here’s what happened Tuesday afternoon:

At 2:27 p.m., police received a 911 call from a woman indicating she heard a gunshot in the area of 17th Street and White Avenue. Officers responded but didn’t find anything unusual.

Seven minutes later, a Rite Aid employee called 911 to report a man came into the store with a gun and attacked an employee.

An assistant manager later told police he was sweeping a warehouse area in the back of the store when a man approached and asked for directions to the restroom and for a job application. He said the man then pulled out a gun and pointed it at his stomach.

The assistant manager said the man then shoved him to the floor, dropped the gun and ran out the front door. He provided a description of the gunman to detectives, who recovered the Bersa .380 handgun. It had a round chambered and three others in the magazine.

At the same time 911 dispatchers took the call about the Rite Aid incident, they received a call from Awad’s father indicating his son was depressed and was going to shoot himself. Officers later found Awad at his apartment at 1625D White Ave. He confirmed to them that he had told his father he was going to commit suicide.

Police took Awad into protective custody, then searched his home and found a box containing .380 ammunition, a case for a .380 handgun and a spent .380 shell casing outside the apartment. They also found a multicolored brown jacket that matched the clothing description given by the Rite Aid assistant manager.

Awad told police he had driven to his doctor’s office to try to get a prescription refilled before driving to Rite Aid. He said he fired the gun outside his apartment earlier in the day and took it into Rite Aid but denied pointing it at the assistant manager, the affidavit said.

Awad also told police he purchased the gun earlier in the day Tuesday. Asked Wednesday whether police were looking into where Awad purchased the gun, police spokeswoman Kate Porras said detectives were gathering information about the gun but declined to go into any details.


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