MIAMI: The gunman who killed singer Christina Grimmie, a former contestant on the popular TV show “The Voice,” traveled to Orlando, Florida, apparently intending to attack her, police said Saturday.
Armed with two handguns, ammunition and a hunting knife, the suspect, identified as Kevin James Loibl, shot and fatally wounded the 22-year-old at the city’s Plaza Live Theater late Friday during a meet and greet with fans.
Grimmie — who had performed with the group “Before You Exit” — was rushed to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, but died of her wounds.
“The suspect traveled to Orlando, apparently, to commit this crime, and then had plans to travel back to where he came from,” Police Chief John Mina told reporters.
But the tragedy could have been far worse had Grimmie’s brother Marcus not tackled the suspect as he began shooting. Loibl, a 27-year-old from St Petersburg, Florida, shot and killed himself after shooting Grimmie.
“Her brother Marcus is a hero and possibly saved countless other lives,” the Orlando Police Department said in a statement.
There were about 120 people in the venue at the time, it said, adding that the brother was not injured.
Detectives are scrutinizing Loibl’s cell phone and computer as they search for a motive.
Police declined to provide many details about the suspect.
Guns snuck past guards
Unarmed security guards at the concert conducted bag checks, police said, but failed to discover the shooter’s weapons.
“There are no metal detectors. People are not patted down. They open their bags and authorities look inside those bags for weapons,” Mina said.
Most people at the event were “young kids,” which “isn’t a crowd that you would suspect would be carrying guns,” he added.
Authorities said they were trying to determine if the shooter knew Grimmie or was a deranged fan.
The shooting likely adds fuel to the long simmering debate over gun control in the United States, where firearms were used in more than 11,200 murders in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But past bouts of even more extreme gun violence, including the 2012 killing of 20 school children at an elementary school in Connecticut, have led to little change in a country where the right to bear arms is protected under the second amendment of the US constitution.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has vowed to take on the powerful gun lobby if elected president, while Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has promised “to cherish the Second Amendment.”
‘Lost a beautiful soul’
As word of Grimmie’s shooting and subsequent death spread quickly on social media, fans posted video clips of her performances, including her cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” during a blind audition on “The Voice.”
A New Jersey native, Grimmie gained a following by singing covers of hit songs in popular videos posted on YouTube.
Grimmie, who competed in the sixth season of “The Voice” in 2014, released her debut EP “Find Me” in 2011.
“There are no words. We lost a beautiful soul w/ an amazing voice,” the NBC talent show wrote on Twitter.
“My heart is absolutely broken. I miss you Christina,” tweeted pop star Selena Gomez. She included a picture of herself and Grimmie, who was her friend and occasional backup singer.
Gomez’s stepfather Brian Teefey, who was Grimmie’s manager, opened an account on the GoFundMe crowd sourcing website to raise money for Grimmie’s family.
“Words cannot begin to describe the pain I am feeling,” Teefey told People magazine.
“Christina was like a second daughter to me. All I wanted to do was assist her in achieving her musical dreams while protecting her from the pitfalls associated with the business,” he said. “I never could have imagined this horrific event being one of the pitfalls needing to be avoided.” AFP