Police: Winn Dixie Gunman was prepared

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The gravity of the situation faced by Gulfport Police when a man took his wife hostage at a Gulfport grocery store can be seen in the arsenal collected from the suspect.

When Clayton Blanchard, 27, walked into the Winn Dixie on Pass Road, he carried with him  semiautomatic rifle similar to an AK-47, a 22 mm revolver and 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.

"What I want you to notice is one bullet outside. That bullet was in the chamber, meaning that bullet was meant for either the person he had hostage or law enforcement," said Gulfport Police officer George Chaix.

Police recovered these weapons, plus the extra ammunition Blanchard had carried for each, after the gunman committed suicide in the Winn Dixie parking lot.

Blanchard had been arrested for domestic violence a few weeks ago. Thursday he showed up armed to his wife's work and took her hostage.  After nearly two hours, he released her unharmed.

"He was fully prepared and this is what coast law enforcement faces," said Chaix.

It was then that Blanchard used his 9 mm handgun to take his own life.

Police say that law enforcement actions were outstanding.  Several agencies around South Mississippi lent their aid without being asked during the incident.

Chaix says another reason for the successful outcome was because of the actions of the Winn Dixie employees.

"They did exactly what they should. The evacuated the area. They got out. As soon as they saw there was trouble they immediately evacuated," said Chaix.

A Winn Dixie spokes person released this statement about the incident:

"Our primary focus remains on the safety of our team members and guests. We will continue to work with local law enforcement as the investigation of this incident continues.  We take the well-being of our team members very seriously and we will provide counseling and resources for our team members in the store affected by this incident."

Police believe this incident stemmed from domestic violence, a problem that is not uncommon.

Chaix says there are a lot of options for anyone who finds themselves in a situation of domestic violence.  A victim can contact the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Nonviolence at (228) 435-1968.  There is also a legal help line at (877) 609-9911.

Chaix says that victims can also turn to any law enforcement for protection, including Gulfport Police at (228) 868-5959.

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