Wife of Walmart shooting victim says she went numb when her husband's body went cold
Jim Williams, 69, shouted for wife to stay in vehicle before being shot by stranger in botched robbery
Roxine Williams was tired after what she calls a great day together with her husband, Jim. They had been joking and laughing about Christmas shopping when Jim realized he forgot to buy deodorant.
She suggested they stop at Walmart before heading home.
Within minutes, Jim would be dead.
Roxine says he walked into the store and she stayed behind because her legs were bothering her. She had locked the car doors, because it was dark out. When Jim returned to the vehicle, he knocked on the window.
"I unlocked the door and he started to open it. I heard a pop and he slammed the door and he yelled, 'Stay there!'" she said.
"And then he was sort of backing up toward the mirror and he yelled again. There was another pop. And then I looked over and there was a guy in a black hoodie with something covering the bottom half of his face, something black. It was like a piece of cloth covering his bottom face."
- To hear Roxine's account of her husband's last moments and about his kind, heroic character, watch the video embedded at the bottom of this story.
Roxine, unaware what had happened to her husband, called 911 and was told to stay in the car, which she did.
She said she heard two other pops and didn't leave the car until she saw others running around with their phones out. Police showed up and Williams was eventually able to exit the car.
That's when she saw her husband of 44 years lying on the ground.
"I started walking down the parking lane and there was my husband lying two cars away in the middle of the lane and they were trying to do CPR on him. So I walked up and screamed at the cop, 'That's my husband! That's my husband!' And he says, 'You can't come here.'"
A victim of robbery gone wrong
RCMP say they now believe Jim was the victim of a robbery gone wrong, caught off guard in the parking lot by a man who police believe was 18-year-old Chase Freed.
"While the victim was approaching his vehicle, the male approached him and essentially it's believed he was trying to rob the individual," said Insp. Mark Groves. "An altercation took place and ultimately that led to our victim, Mr. Williams, being fatally shot."
It's alleged Freed ran to a waiting SUV and, as he fled, fired two shots from what police describe as a modified semi-automatic rifle at two other people in the Walmart parking lot.
"Fortunately these bullets did not strike their intended victim," said Groves. "He continued to shoot randomly as they left the parking lot."
Police allege the vehicle was being driven by Crystal Maurice.
'His body was still warm'
By the time Roxine arrived at the hospital, just a short time after her husband was rushed away, Jim was dead.
"I kind of went into shock, I think, at that point and they said, 'Do you want to sit with him?'" she said.
"And so I sat with him and his body was still warm. And I sat for about half an hour and then his body got cold. And I thought to myself, 'When his body's cold, he's not there anymore. He's not in his body; he's somewhere else.'"
It was then, she said, that she went numb.
Now Roxine has to face the holidays without her husband and adapt to the idea that their planned cruise through the Panama Canal — to celebrate their 45th anniversary and turning 70 — won't happen.
"I had a bad night last night because today we had to make the funeral arrangements," she said.
"And it's Christmas."
A kind man and 'proud grandpa'
Roxine wants the world to know that her husband was kind and that he talked to everyone and went out of his way to include others in conversations.
"He was the kind of guy that, if he saw a crime happening or he could protect some other person, he would do it. So in my mind, he was protecting me. I will always believe he was protecting me."
In my mind, he was protecting me. I will always believe he was protecting me.- Roxine Williams on her husband, Jim
Even after a fire burned 84 per cent of his body in 1991, Roxine says Jim was rarely seen without a smile on his face.
Tara Veer, the mayor of Red Deer, Alta., also spoke to Jim's character at a press conference on Monday. Visibly emotional, Veer said she knew Jim and Roxine through church, and described Jim as "a man of faith."
She told reporters that his murder was an unprecedented tragedy.
"He was a loving husband to Roxine. He was a much-loved dad. And a proud, proud grandpa," Veer said.
"He was a deeply kind and compassionate person…. All who had the privilege of crossing paths with him were better for knowing him."
Young man charged with 2nd-degree murder
Freed has been charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for the shots fired into the Walmart parking lot.
Groves said further charges are also pending for firearms offences.
Maurice faces charges that include accessory after the fact in the homicide and theft of a vehicle.
Both were apprehended after RCMP in nearby Rimbey, Alta., stopped their stolen vehicle using spike belts.
Groves said this kind of violence — a fatal shooting of a victim unknown to the shooter — is extremely rare.
"In these situations, gun violence is usually a criminal element acting on a criminal element," he said.