The suspected gunman in the fatal shooting at a Best Buy store in Avondale on Monday has died, police reported Wednesday.
Avondale police believe Henry Cota Jr., 27, shot and killed Melissa Mendez, 26, following a history of escalating domestic violence.
Mendez was pronounced dead hours after being shot at the Best Buy store where she worked. Cota, who also had gunshot wounds, died at a hospital Tuesday evening, according to Officer Jaret Redfearn, an Avondale police spokesman.
Police have still not said whether Cota’s injuries were self-inflicted. Redfearn said a gun was recovered at the scene.
The shooting that sent customers running for cover took place just after noon at the store near 99th Avenue and McDowell Road, Redfearn said.
Monday’s shooting began with an initial confrontation outside the store, police said. Cota fired several shots at Mendez, who ran inside the store, officials added. Cota followed her inside and fired more shots in the store.
No further details were provided by police, who said the matter still was being investigated Wednesday.
Police had the area around the store blocked off for hours after the shooting.
Several people who were in the store described a terrifying scene when the shooting broke out.
Fernando Perez, 20, told The Arizona Republic that he and his friend were in the Best Buy shopping for supplies for some speakers when they heard what sounded like a chase and saw a man wearing all black running after a woman.
“After that, we just heard the gunfire,” Perez said. “Then we just ran out of the back door and went all the way to (Raising) Cane’s.”
Melinda Brasher told The Republic she was in Best Buy looking to buy computer supplies when the shooting occurred.
“I heard shots and people running and shouting,” Brasher said. “So I ran toward the back.”
Another woman was in back trying to open an emergency exit, but was unable to, Brasher said.
“We went and hid in the restroom,” she said, adding the two initially leaned against the door but were afraid the shooter might fire through the door. “We got up on the toilet seats so it looked like we weren’t there.”
Brasher said they were in there for what felt like forever and kept hearing shots but no words. Then police came into the restroom and the two came out of the stall with their hands up, she said.
Marlene Brasher, Melinda’s mother, said she was next door at Hobby Lobby and phoned her daughter several times to try to figure out if her daughter was OK.
“I’ve never been so happy in my life,” said Marlene, describing her reaction when she saw her daughter afterward.
Trudy Frias and her family pulled up to the scene shortly after, unaware of what happened. Frias said that when they parked, they could only see police cars.
Her husband, Larry, jumped up on the trailer their truck was pulling while she used his binoculars to try to see what was going on.
“I saw them wheeling a guy out of the Best Buy,” Frias said. “They had an air mask on him.”
Frias then said she saw a second person who was also on a stretcher being wheeled out to awaiting ambulances.