RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An avid runner and the mother of three boys. A woman who was the “rock” of her family and knew everyone in the neighborhood. A Navy veteran whose wedding was two weeks away.
These were among the victims of Thursday’s shooting rampage in North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, that claimed five lives and wounded two others.
A 15-year-old boy opened fire, killing a total of five people in the city’s Hedingham neighborhood and along the nearby Neuse River Greenway, police said. One of those slain was an off-duty Raleigh police officer who was headed to work. Another person killed was a 16-year-old.
A woman and a second Raleigh police officer also were wounded.
Among the dead were:
Connors, 52, was the matriarch of her extended family, the one who “got things done,” her husband Tracey Howard told The Associated Press.
When her father died, she was the one who went to Veterans Affairs to straighten things out — using “choice words” — to ensure he was buried in a veterans cemetery, Howard said. She also left her job in human resources to care for her mother after she had a stroke.
“Anything that had to be done, she was going to do it,” Howard said. “And she was going to make sure it was done right.”
Connors and her husband liked to get out of the house and explore Raleigh’s restaurant scene. They had tickets for the next Black Panther film, coming out in November, and planned to go to the North Carolina State Fair.
Late Thursday afternoon, Howard left the house to get food for lunch — he works the third shift — and to buy a lightbulb for the porch. Connors had taken a friend to Red Lobster to celebrate her friend’s birthday before coming home.
“She couldn’t have been home more than five or 10 minutes before this happened,” Howard said.
Connors and a neighbor, who was listed among the wounded, were shot, Howard said.
“Her friend was more or less by the driveway like she was about to go home or was on her way home, and my wife was on the porch,” Howard said.
Howard is left to wonder what motivated the shooting.
“It is just a senseless killing,” he said. “People outside enjoying the weather, talking. Next thing you know they’re gone. It’s just stupid. It’s senseless.”
Connors’ neighbors said she was always friendly while walking her Jack Russell terrier, Sami.
Marvin Judd said Connors was a “sweet person” with a “good heart.”
“And she was always kind and gentle to everybody she met,” Judd said. “She didn’t meet strangers. Everybody was a friend to her.”
Her husband, Tom Karnatz, told the AP that she “was a very loving wife and amazing mother to our three sons. We’re absolutely heartbroken and miss her dearly.”
Karnatz, 49, was an avid runner who frequented the greenway where some of the shootings occurred. She had completed 5.1 miles of her planned 7-mile run on the greenway the night she died.
Two cars parked in the driveway had matching 26.2 stickers — marking the mileage of a marathon. The license plate of a minivan said “RUNNR.”
In a Facebook post, Tom Karnatz wrote that he and his wife had big — and little — plans together.
“We had plans together for big adventures,” he wrote. “And plans together for the mundane days in between. We had plans together with the boys. And we had plans together as empty nesters. We had plans together for growing old. … Now those plans are laid to waste.”
Karnatz had completed the Boston Marathon four times, according to an obituary. She was a school psychologist before pausing to homeschool her three sons, which “brought her joy, purpose and fulfillment.”
“She was fun, often tickled by quirky humor, and if she got going, would laugh until she cried,” the obituary said. ”She listened without judgment, provided wise advice when asked, and offered kind words and gentle reassurance to those around her. Her absence is profound in the hearts of friends and family.”
Marshall, 34, was killed while walking her dog Scruff and was planning to get married on Oct. 29, her sister told NBC News.
“Her fiance Rob, he was just the love of her life,” Meaghan McCrickard told NBC. “I think we’re going to still do a celebration of life, that’s the plan, for the date of the wedding.”
“She’s got a friend coming from Japan, somebody coming from Florida, from Texas,” McCrickard said. “As excited as she was to be married, I know she was more excited to have all the people she loved the most at the same place at the same time.”
When the shooting started, Marshall was walking Scruff on the Neuse River Greenway, her sister told NBC.
“She had called her fiance Rob and said, ‘I’m walking the dog, I’m hearing these gunshots, can you come home?’ And that was the last conversation that they had,” McCrickard said.
In another interview with NBC, Marshall’s fiance recalled what she had said over the phone: “I need you to come home right now — immediately. Scruff (our dog) has slipped his collar, and I just heard gunshots.”
Marshall went after Scruff. Robert Steele rushed home. When he got there, a detective was outside.
“He started asking about tattoos that Mary has,” Steele said through tears, while holding the wedding band he planned to give her. “We knew she was gone.”
Marshall’s step-grandmother, Donna Marshall, told the Raleigh News & Observer that Mary Marshall had served in the Navy and attended culinary school before moving back to the Raleigh area three years ago.
“She loved to go to the beach, and she was an absolute fanatic about Disney World,” Donna Marshall told the newspaper.
Scruff had effectively chosen Marshall as his owner when he sat on her lap at an animal shelter, her step-grandmother said.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for her mom and dad and her sister and her close family,” Donna Marshall said. “It’s just going to be awful.”
Torres, 29, was on his way to work when he was fatally shot in the Hedingham neighborhood, police said. Raleigh Police Chief Estella D. Patterson said Torres was not in uniform or in his patrol car at the time of the shooting, according to the News & Observer.
Torres leaves behind a wife and child, the chief said. Torres was on the job for 18 months. Before that, he served as a U.S. Marine at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville.
“We ask all of you to please pray and keep in your thoughts Officer Torres and the other victims of this senseless act of evil,” the Raleigh Police Protective Association, an advocacy group for officers, said on Facebook.
Back the Blue NC, a nonprofit that advocates for law enforcement officials, launched a fundraiser for Torres’ family through GoFundMe. It had raised $88,000 as of Monday morning.
Thompson, 16, was a junior at Knightdale High School in Raleigh, according to a statement from Principal Keith Richardson.
“It is an unexpected loss and we are saddened by it,” Richardson said. “Our condolences, thoughts, and prayers go out to James’ family, the other victims, their families and all who have been impacted.”
The school board chair and superintendent of the Wake County Public School System issued a statement saying they are “shocked, saddened and broken-hearted.”
“Our hearts go out to the victims’ loved ones, and our community continues to seek answers around this tragedy and solutions to prevent such unspeakable events in the future,” the statement said.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.
Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.