MIDDLETOWN, OH—Shock, dismay and fabulous money-saving opportunities were just part of the aftermath of a tragic mass-discounting Monday, when a price-gun-wielding maniac opened fire on the canned-goods aisle of a local supermarket.
Though shot and seriously injured by in-store security personnel while escaping, the unidentified man, who police and grocery authorities describe as "armed and dangerous," remains at large as of press time.
Inflicting discount savings of an estimated 30 to 40 percent on a variety of delicious food items throughout the store, the man held a stand-up display of Hormel Chili products hostage at gunpoint for 30 harrowing minutes before opening fire.
The rampage of markdowns, which occurred at the Food Lion at Cobb Road and Highland Avenue in Middletown, caused an estimated "$22,000 in savings, product rebates and great three-for-two deals, valid until 10 p.m. Friday," a visibly shaken Food Lion spokesperson told reporters.
"There was nothing anybody could do," said second-shift produce manager Fred Gwaines, who witnessed the incident. "We had no choice but to stand there and watch as our profit margin dropped right in front of us. I mean, I saw a 12-ounce jar of Mott's-brand applesauce get marked down to $1.19 right before my eyes. How could a person do something like that?"
Though it is not known how the man came into possession of the price gun or managed to get it inside the store, law-enforcement and grocery-industry authorities believe he may have at one time received stocking and pricing training at a major supermarket chain, most likely as a short-term probationary employee or trainee.
"This was a sophisticated price gun, with dual spring-loaded sticker-tape loops and twin five-digit display settings," Food Lion store manager Hank Schwepp said. "People don't just walk in off the street with a price gun like that. What's more, he knew how to use it. This guy's seen his share of instructional training videos, that's for sure."
Witnesses said the man discounted hundreds of food items, as well as products for use in and around the home, before store security guards made the decision to return fire. Shot twice in the left calf and once in the right shoulder, the wounded gunman nevertheless continued to furiously discount food items without remorse before fleeing into the frozen-food aisle, eluding pursuers.
"It's a decision no guard ever wants to make," security officer Bill Nissen said. "But when I saw that deranged madman heading toward the frozen-food aisle, I knew it was either the Hungry Man salisbury-steak dinner entrees or him. There was never any question."
"For a person to take that many bullets and keep going, it's almost superhuman," Schwepp said. "We're talking about a perpetrator who is pathologically devoted to huge savings on quality food items for a limited time only. Our grocery pathologists and retail forensic psychiatrists indicate that he likely has a long history of smart shopping and coupon use, and was probably exposed to budget-conscious family shopping as a child. Savings rule his life."
Food Lion officials are strongly urging all shoppers to keep a close watch on upcoming "Clip 'n' Save" newspaper inserts for information about when and where the price-gun-wielding man may strike next, letting loose another barrage of low, low prices.
"Somewhere out there, this maniac is still free," assistant store manager Ted Conn said. "There's no telling how much ammunition he has remaining or how far he is willing to go in his mad pursuit of greater and greater savings at all Food Lion locations throughout the greater Middletown area. He's obviously highly resourceful, intelligent and single-minded about discounts. All consumers can do is watch, wait and pray. And stop by your neighborhood Food Lion, where we have no choice but to pass these inhuman, tragic savings on to you."