Survivor could help ID massacre gunman

February 4, 2008 12:51:26 PM PST
A sixth victim injured during a Saturday morning massacre that claimed five lives inside an Illinois woman's clothing store may be able to help authorities identify the suspect. The shooting survivor, whose name has not been released, was sent to a local hospital after a gunman fatally shot four shoppers and the store manager at a Lane Bryant store Saturday morning in Tinley Park, a normally tranquil town 30 miles west of Chicago.

A hospital spokesman did not provide the condition of the victim Sunday or any details beyond a confirmation that a single shooting victim had been admitted.

Authorities hope the survivor will help them create a composite sketch that can be used as authorities hunt for the suspect, according to ABC News Chicago affiliate WLS. So far, the gunman has only been described as a black male, standing 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing about 250 pounds and wearing a black jacket to the waist, a black baseball cap and dark jeans.

A spokesman for the Tinley Park police department did not return multiple messages from ABC News seeking comment on the investigation, but an afternoon press conference had been scheduled to discuss the shooting and status of the manhunt, which today was joined by the FBI.

The names of the five women fatally shot inside the plus-sized women's clothing store were released Sunday by the Will County Coroner's Office. They included Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, of Flossmoor; Sarah T. Szafranski, 22, of Oak Forest; Carrie H. Chiuso, 33, of Frankfort; Rhoda McFarland, 42, of Joliet; and Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, of South Bend, Ind.

Charming Shoppes, Inc., the parent company of Lane Bryant, offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman.

"The store manager of the Lane Bryant and four customers have lost their lives in this shooting," the company said in a statement that also announced that all of the company's Chicago-area Lane Bryant stores were going to be closed on Sunday.

Cook County Crime Stoppers offered an additional $5,000 for information about the case.

Maurice Hamilton, McFarland's brother, said the gunman needs to come out of hiding.

"It's just best to turn himself in," Hamilton told WLS. "My sister will forgive you."

Woolfolk's relatives urged the same, adding that her death will be particularly hard on her two sons.

"I think I'll be able to handle it," said her brother, Aaron Woolfolk. "It's more about her nieces and nephews and her kids, they're going to be the people who we're going to have to continue to watch to get through this."

Szafranski's family issued a statement about the tragedy.

"Our emotions are raw. And we are still in shock," the statement reads. "Sarah was loved by all who knew her and we are counting on that love to sustain us while we mourn."

The shooting and manhunt have shaken the 60,000-resident community. Flags will be flown at half-staff for five days, Mayor Edward Zabrocki announced, one day for each of the victims of the massacre. Five crosses were placed in a snowbank to mark each of the dead.

While encouraging vigilance, Zabrocki also pleaded for residents to carry on with normal activities as much as possible, despite the urgency of the manhunt.

"While it is normal to feel some fear when such a tragedy occurs, we should not allow this single, senseless act to shatter the sense of security that has always been provided in Tinley Park," he said in a statement. "Like other towns across the nation, we have been forced to face the cruel reality that, despite our best efforts, no community is immune to certain evils that exist in the world today."

Authorities Sunday described the investigation as "extremely sensitive" and said certain information had to be kept confidential. The shooting apparently took place after some type of botched robbery, they said Sunday.