ABERDEEN, Md. — Before she shot six co-workers at a Rite Aid warehouse here, killing three of them, Snochia Moseley, 26, had been beset for years by mental illness as well as emotional turmoil related to her struggle with sexual identity, according to authorities and a close friend of Moseley’s.
“We’re never going to make sense of it or understand it fully,” Gahler said.
Still, as investigators continued digging into Moseley’s background and Gahler released a detailed timeline of the shooting, a picture began emerging of a long-troubled woman who carried a semiautomatic pistol and extra ammo clips into a workplace of about 65 people and pulled the trigger more than a dozen times.
The slain Rite Aid employees were identified Friday as a man and two women: Sunday Aguda, 45, of Dundalk, Md.; and Brindra Giri and Hayleen Reyes, both 41, and both of Baltimore. Authorities said the three surviving victims suffered wounds that are not considered life-threatening.
Giri had emigrated to the United States from Nepal four months ago, said a family friend, Harry Bhandari. He said Giri was learning English and studying to get a driver’s license. She had been working at the Rite Aid distribution center for two weeks.
Bhandari said witnesses told him that Giri yelled for other employees to run when Moseley opened fire. She was one of about five workers at the facility who were immigrants from Nepal, including one of the wounded victims. Giri had a husband of 20 years, a daughter in 10th grade and a son in sixth grade.
“She wanted to provide the best for her kids,” Bhandari said, which was why she brought her children to the United States. “Kids and family were everything to her.”
Aguda’s wife, Lena, sobbed on the phone early Friday evening over the loss of her husband in the rampage. “I am grieving for my dear husband because the gun violence is completely out of control in America. It is tragic to have to undergo this grief,” she said.
“It’s so very, very hard for me now, so very hard. I am sorry,” she said in a brief interview “It’s just too hard for me even to talk about him.”
Relatives of Reyes could not be located. A spokeswoman for Rite Aid did not reply Friday to an interview request about the shooting victims.
Despite her mental-illness diagnosis, Moseley, of White Marsh, Md., was able to legally purchase the Glock in March because psychiatric problems alone are not enough to bar firearms ownership under Maryland law, said Maj. William Davis of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. The law lists several accompanying criteria, such as a history of violent behavior toward other people, which did not apply to Moseley, Davis said.
“There were family members, people close to this individual, who had concerns” about her mental state, Gahler said. “Friends and family members relate to detectives that over the last two weeks, she had become increasingly agitated, and they were concerned about her well-being.” But the sheriff said none of those relatives and acquaintances conveyed their worries to law enforcement officials.
“You can what-if things to death,” Gahler said, declining to specify Moseley’s psychiatric issues. “We know that authorities were not notified that they had concerns.”
Troi Coley, who described herself as a close friend of Moseley’s, offered a closer look at Moseley’s mental and emotional troubles in an interview with The Washington Post.
She said Moseley suffered from bipolar disorder and struggled since early in high school with severe depression, partly connected to her feelings of not being accepted when she first came out as a gay teenage girl and later as transgender.
Coley said she and Moseley were freshmen together at Chesapeake High School in Essex, Md., a historically working-class suburb east of Baltimore. Moseley transferred in 10th grade to Overlea High in a predominantly middle-class suburb northeast of the city.
“This is a girl who was depressed most of her life because she couldn’t accept herself to be who she was after she came out as gay, and she thought nobody else could accept her either,” said Coley, now an intern at CharmTV, a cable station run by the Baltimore city government. “Snochia went through a lot of changes, but just could never really accept who she was. She just felt like she wasn’t accepted by anybody.”
Coley said that during periods when Moseley was undergoing intensive mental health treatment, she had brighter moments and enjoyed writing rap lyrics. She said Moseley wrote an unpublished manuscript about coming out as transgender, titled “No Swagger.” In it, Moseley detailed the pain of struggling to accept her sexual orientation and being rejected by others, including some family members, Coley said.
Moseley began receiving hormone therapy about a year ago as she planned to undergo a sex-reassignment operation, Coley said. “Since then, she has been going through a terrible time,” said Coley. “She had just gone through this change, the hormone therapy, and struggling to find her way, but she couldn’t in the end.”
Gahler said Moseley, driving a friend’s car, arrived at the Rite Aid warehouse to start her work day at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. She was a seasonal employee who had been hired for a period of about two weeks, the sheriff said.
“There was a mention of an incident involving something about [her] butting in line” as employees were clocking in, Gahler said. But he called this “a little incident” that “didn’t seem to be of the nature that caused her too much agitation.”
At 7:21 a.m., Moseley, giving no reason, left the warehouse and drove home, Gahler said. He said detectives think Moseley, who once worked as a security guard, went to her residence to get the Glock, as well as handcuffs and a container of pepper spray, which the sheriff said were later found on her body.
She arrived back at the Rite Aid gate at 8:35 a.m., and, apparently after sitting in the parking lot for several minutes, reentered the warehouse at 8:53 a.m., Gahler said.
“She chose to begin the shooting at break time,” shortly after 9 a.m., “when the employees came out from the back and had gone outside,” he said. He said Moseley fired several shots at people standing just outside the entrance, striking one victim, who died. She then walked inside and opened fire again, killing two workers and wounding three.
Rite Aid has unarmed security guards on its property, but none were in the building where the shooting occurred, Gahler said. The wounded survivors were identified as three men: Hassan Mitchell, 19, of Aberdeen; Wilfredo Villegas, 45, of Gaithersburg.; and Purna Acharya, 45, of Ridgewood, N.Y.
“She was moving pretty quickly, not taking a lot of time to aim,” the sheriff said, quoting witness accounts. “A total of 13 rounds that we know of were fired. . . . You don’t have to be highly accurate when you’re in close quarters.”
Authorities received the first report of a shooting at 9:07 a.m., Gahler said. Before officers arrived, he said, Moseley held the Glock to her head and squeezed off a round, which caused only a grazing wound. She then pulled the trigger again, fatally.
One of the first responders dragged the bleeding Moseley to safe cover, thinking she was a victim, and began lifesaving measures, the sheriff said. She later died at a hospital.
Harford County is no stranger to such violence. In October 2017, three people were killed and two others wounded in a shooting at a business park in the county. And in 2016, two Harford sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed in a Panera restaurant.
“What makes a person capable of taking a weapon and using it against unarmed, defenseless people?” Gahler wondered plaintively at a Friday morning news briefing, referring to the three deadly attacks. “The mental health issues, we see it time and time and time again. And just the disregard for human life that seems so commonplace across our nation.”
As for Moseley’s 9mm Glock 17, which sells for about $500 in stores, people in Maryland are legally barred from owning firearms only if certain criteria are met.
They are prohibited from owning guns if they suffer from a mental disorder and have a history of violent behavior against another person; have been found incompetent to stand trial; have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity; have been voluntarily committed to a mental health facility for more than 30 days consecutively; or have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said mental illness was a big factor in each of the three fatal attacks in Harford in recent years.
“A ticking time bomb,” he called it.
Debbie Truong, Eddy Palanzo and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.