A woman who was walking into the Hammond Target seconds before a suspect rammed a vehicle through the entrance described the scene as chaotic, with people running and screaming as a caped man got out of the car and started yelling.

Lisa Marinello said she heard an engine rev behind her before turning to see a vehicle drive into the doors, reverse, then again ram the doors until he was far enough inside he was almost at the checkout registers.

"It's a miracle he didn't injure anyone," she said. "It was awful."

Hammond police identified the suspect Friday evening as Walter Allbritton III, 41, of Ponchatoula who's accused of leaving a possible explosive device — later determined to be fake — inside the store before he was taken into police custody. He's now facing a litany of arrest counts, including terrorism and terrorizing.

A person who appears to be Allbritton posted a video on Facebook that appears to show him crashing into the Target. The video shows him referencing President Donald Trump, though it's difficult to discern the context of what he says due to loud music playing in the background.

After the crash, the man says, “You’re going to have to kill me, just like y’all do everybody else.”

The Facebook account on which the video was posted lists its employer as Target.

In a second video posted soon after, the person who appears to be Allbritton walks through the store calmly, but is shouting largely indiscernible phrases and laughing. He walks through an employee-only area with lockers and out through a back door as alarms sound. He then laughs and asks several nearby drivers for a ride as those cars speed away and the man is eventually chased and stopped.

Marinello, the witness, said she immediately turned back toward the parking lot once the car was through the doors, but she went back inside to help a distressed older woman trying to get out. That's when she saw the suspect get out of his vehicle.

He was wearing what looked like a white bedsheet tied around his neck with red writing on it, she said, but she wasn't close enough to read the writing or hear what he was saying. Police declined to confirm that description, citing their ongoing investigation.

In a news conference Friday evening, Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron said Allbritton drove through the Target, dropped what was presumed to be an explosive device, ran out a side door and attempted to carjack someone in the parking lot before being apprehended by Hammond police officers. Authorities announced Friday night the device was fake.

Law enforcement said Allbritton intended for people to believe the device was real

Bergeron said Allbritton had dropped similar devices at a nearby Sanderson Farms and Dollar General in the minutes before he drove into the Target. He had a fourth device on him when he was arrested, according to Bergeron.

All were determined to be fake.

Bergeron indicated Allbritton appears to be mentally stable while he's being interviewed but is "all over the map" with his recount of what happened. The chief declined to comment on specifics of a possible motive and the details of what Allbritton has told law enforcement.

Video footage of the incident at Target also showed a black SUV driving into the store and stopping only after it plowed into a cashier's station. Customers are then heard shouting that people should get out of the store. The footage cuts out before the man exits his vehicle.

Bergeron said he hoped to debunk some rumors that have been circulating on social media this afternoon, including that there was an active shooter involved. He said the suspect was not armed and no one was seriously injured nor were shots fired.

"We're not sure why he's done it at this point. … We believe he acted alone, but we're not 100% positive on that," Bergeron told reporters. "We are working hard to figure everything out."

He declined to comment on the suspect's possible motives.

The Hammond Square Mall — a complex just off Interstate 12 where the Target is located — was evacuated following the incident. One person sustained a minor injury from glass when the car plowed through the store windows, but otherwise nobody was injured.

In the Friday news conference, the chief said the District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the potential charges, but they'll include counts of terrorism, terrorizing, attempted armed robbery, resisting an officer, aggravated arson, aggravated assault, aggravated criminal damage, manufacture and possession of a delayed action incendiary devices and aggravated assault on a police officer. 


Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.