‘She was a beautiful soul’: Friend IDs victim in deadly shooting at Westerly housing complex

News

WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — One woman is dead and two others are hospitalized after police say a resident of a housing complex in Westerly opened fire at the facility’s main entrance before eventually turning the gun on himself.

The incident took place at Babcock Village on Cross Street around 10:30 a.m., shocking the small seaside community near the Connecticut border. Schools were put on lockdown for roughly three hours following the incident.

TIMELINE: See how the events unfolded »

Tim White, Ted Nesi, Nancy Krause, Anita Baffoni, Courtney Carter, Steph Machado, Eli Sherman, Corey Welch, Sarah Doiron, Susan Campbell and Steve Nielsen contributed to this report.

“It’s a tragic day for Westerly and of course the victims,” Attorney General Peter Neronha said during a 2:30 p.m. news conference with other law enforcement officials.

The suspect, whom police are not yet identifying, was a 66-year-old man who they say was a resident of the complex.

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said once the suspect was identified from video surveillance footage, police used the state bomb squad robot — equipped with a video camera — to enter the man’s room, where he was found dead of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The three victims were identified as a 47-year-old Babcock Village employee, who was pronounced dead at the scene; a 38-year-old employee, who Lacey said was in “extreme critical condition” after being flown to Yale New Haven Hospital; and a 66-year-old resident, who was said to be in stable condition after undergoing surgery at Rhode Island Hospital.

Julie Lynn Cardinal (Courtesy: Lisa Marie)

Police have not released the names of the victims, however, a close family friend of the woman who was killed identified her as Julie Lynn Cardinal.

Lisa Marie said Cardinal was well-known throughout the community.

“She will always be known as the most beautiful soul with the kindest of hearts,” Lisa Marie said. “What this man did was take a huge part of Westerly.”

A GoFundMe page has been created to support Cardinal’s family.

First Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church in Ashaway opened its doors Thursday evening for a night of prayer for the victims and their families.

“It’s just really important that not just today, but in the days ahead, in the weeks ahead, we keep praying for these families,” Pastor David Stall said.

Lacey and R.I. State Police Col. James Manni both said the investigation into the incident is ongoing and a motive is not yet known, though Lacey said town police were “familiar with the suspect.”

“We’re looking into any possible connection between him and the employees,” Manni said.

Target 12 has learned investigators believe the suspect recently purchased the gun used in the crime and early indications are he did so legally. Lacey told Eyewitness News there was no “red flag” order on the suspect, which would have prevented him from purchasing the weapon.

Babcock Village is described as an assisted living residential complex with 151 apartment units. Its owner, Property Advisory Group & Affordable Housing Strategies Inc., released a statement saying the company’s leaders are “shocked and saddened that this tragedy has occurred.”

“Our priority, as always, is the safety of our residents and staff,” the statement said. “We are working with law enforcement to address this situation, and further questions should be referred to the Westerly Police and Rhode Island State Police.

Lacey said there were “never any serious types of crimes of this nature” at Babcock Village in the past. He also said he did not know the last time there had been a homicide in Westerly.

Attorney General Peter Nerohna was at the scene Thursday. He told Target 12 his office is writing up search warrants for the suspect’s apartment. They need the warrants in order to legally look at cellphone and computer data, and to search the apartment for other weapons or related evidence.

How it Unfolded

Below are the live updates that were posted as the incident unfolded.

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.

Police confirm the suspected gunman, a 66-year-old man, was a resident of Babcock Village.

Police said two of the victims – including the deceased – were employees of Babcock. A third victim was also a resident of the complex. All three victims, police said, are women.

Police did not release the names of the shooter or victims. However, they said the woman who died was 47 years old.

Police said they identified a potential suspect using surveillance video. Investigators discovered he was dead after sending in a robot to the suspect’s room.

UPDATE 2:24 p.m.

Cross Street – the road on which Babcock Village is located is being reopened to traffic.

UPDATE 1:43 p.m.

Two law enforcement sources confirm to Target 12’s Tim White that the Westerly shooting suspect is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

UPDATE 1:31 p.m.

WPRI 12 crews in Westerly report the scene is no longer active and law enforcement is de-escalating its presence, with some vehicles departing.

UPDATE 1:17 p.m.

Property Advisory Group & Affordable Housing Strategies, Inc., owner of Babcock Village, released the following statement about Thursday’s shooting:

“We are shocked and saddened that this tragedy has occurred. Our priority, as always, is the safety of our residents and staff. We are working with law enforcement to address this situation, and further questions should be referred to the Westerly Police and Rhode Island State Police.”

UPDATE 1:06 p.m.

All after-school activities are canceled, according to a tweet from the school’s athletics account.

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.

No suspect is in custody yet in connection with the Babcock Village shooting, according to R.I. State Police Col. James Manni. The scene around the incident remains active, he said.

Westerly Public Schools are no longer on lockdown, according to the town police.

The district also tweeted that the high school would be dismissing at 1:20 p.m.

Several local businesses have been on lockdown. It’s not clear if the lockdown has ended for everyone. Eyewitness News was there as a mom and her two kids were released from a local dentist’s office with a police escort.

UPDATE 12:43 p.m.

Rep. Samuel Azzinaro, D-Westerly, told WPRI 12 during a phone interview he was safe at home and tracking the situation closely.

He described the area around Babcock Village, which is for low- and moderate-income residents, as a busy corridor with several homes and businesses.

“I don’t remember anything like this happening in Westerly – ever,” he said. “I guess every city and town is vulnerable to this kind of thing.”

UPDATE 12:38 p.m.

Col. James Manni confirms one person has died following a shooting at Babcock Village in Westerly. At least two other people were hurt. He said the scene is still active.

Eyewitness News reporter Anita Baffoni reports that armored trucks and the bomb squad drove to the scene a short time ago.

Connecticut State Police confirmed troopers are covering the border between Westerly and Connecticut. The housing complex is one mile from the border with Stonington, Ct. 

UPDATE 12:31 p.m.

Officials have said there are at least three victims in the Westerly incident.

Hospital spokespersons confirm one victim is at Rhode Island Hospital and a second victim is at Westerly Hospital. Their conditions remain unknown.

The status of the third victim remains unclear at this time.

UPDATE 12:09 p.m.

One patient involved in the incident in Westerly has been transported to Rhode Island Hospital, a hospital spokesperson confirms. The individual’s condition is undetermined at this point, she said.

Rhode Island Hospital is the state’s only Level 1 trauma center.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.

An employee at In Motion Marine, a nearby business on Cross Street, told WPRI 12 she is one of eight people sheltering in place inside the company’s locked garage. She said they first heard sirens around 10:30 a.m.

“We’re really just waiting for word that he’s been caught so we can leave because we’re kind of trapped in here,” she said. “It’s really scary.”

She described Babcock Village as “pretty much a mellow place,” adding, “I’m very surprised.”

UPDATE 11:56 a.m.

Police in Stonington, Connecticut, confirm they have units on the scene in Westerly.

UPDATE 11:44 a.m.

Westerly Hospital spokesman Bill Hanrahan confirms the hospital – which is about a mile away from Babcock Village – is no longer on lockdown but is on a “heightened sense of security.”

He said doctors there are treating one patient. The hospital could not comment on the type or extent of the injuries.

UPDATE 11:39 a.m.

State police confirm at least three victims. No word on the extent of injuries.

It’s unclear if anyone is in custody.

Several businesses in the area said they have seen multiple emergency vehicles heading toward Babcock Village.

UPDATE 11:36 a.m.

UPDATE 11:31 a.m.

R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said the agency was contacted as a part of the response “for the utilization on our patient tracking system. When there are multiple people involved in one incident, we are able to coordinate if they are getting care at multiple facilities.”

Congressman David Cicilline tweeted that he is monitoring the situation as well.

UPDATE 11:24 a.m.

Here’s a map of where this is happening.

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.

Law enforcement sources tell Eyewitness News there may be multiple victims following a reported shooting in the town.

The shooting reportedly happened at Babcock Village on Cross Street. According to PropertyAdvisoryGroup.com, Babcock Village is affordable housing for the elderly and disabled.

All Westerly Public Schools are in lockdown, according to the district’s Facebook page.

UPDATE 11:11 a.m.

Westerly Hospital confirms they are on lockdown.

Police confirm John Street is shut down.

Col. James Manni confirms state police is sending a tactical team.

UPDATE 11:03 a.m.

According to a tweet from Westerly dispatch, an emergency call came in around 10:30 a.m. to Cross Street.

State police confirm they are assisting.

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