One was a mother and grandmother there to pick up a gun she had ordered for protection.
Another was a firearms enthusiast working one of his two jobs. The third was there for target practice.
All of them were killed inside Jefferson Gun Outlet in Metairie on Saturday afternoon when an argument over a purported violation of a safety rule devolved into a shootout that sent Veronica Billiot, Herbert “Noah” Fischbach and Joshua Williams to the morgue and two others to the hospital with injuries, officials and loved ones said Sunday.
Details about those who were slain during the bloodshed at the gun shop and indoor shooting range at 6719 Airline Drive emerged a day later, as Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators combed through surveillance video, ballistics evidence and witness statements to reconstruct what happened amid the carnage.
Investigators are scrutinizing a key exchange. Williams, 27, brought a pistol with an extended magazine into the shop and argued with staff when they told him to unload his weapon to comply with a rule prohibiting patrons from having a loaded gun when not in a booth at the target range, multiple law enforcement sources told The Times-Picayune — New Orleans Advocate.
Detectives suspect things escalated so drastically that Williams — who had gone there to use the range, according to relatives — fired a warning round into the ceiling.
The sources said investigators believe Williams then fatally shot Fischbach, 47, the shop clerk. Williams and 59-year-old Billiot — who was there to collect a gun she had ordered ahead of time, according to her family — were then mortally wounded while armed employees and customers in the store began firing.
Williams died after running out to the parking lot, which investigators would later find was littered with spent gun cartridges. Billiot died just inside the front entrance of the store, whose glass front doors were shattered. Two other people were injured during the gunbattle and taken to the hospital, though their wounds were not thought to be life-threatening.
Jefferson Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich released the names of Williams, Fischbach and Billiot on Sunday morning. But little new information was available about who at the store fatally shot Williams and Billiot, with investigators still working to establish exactly which of the myriad weapons at the scene were discharged and whom they may have struck.
Whatever the case, three families spent Sunday grieving the devastation wrought by a bloodbath that within hours had made the national news.
Linda Billiot said all indications are that her older sister Veronica “had no clue whatsoever what was going on” when the argument involving Williams started.
“She was completely innocent,” Linda Billiot said during a telephone interview Sunday.
With her voice breaking at times, Linda Billiot remembered how Veronica Billiot stepped up to help raise her two younger sisters because their mother was not in the picture while they grew up in Algiers Point.
She made her living as the military housing property manager at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse, Linda Billiot said. Besides her sisters, Veronica Billiot had also raised three children and had six grandchildren.
Linda Billiot said Veronica Billiot’s son was horrified to hear of the quintuple shooting at Jefferson Gun Outlet, knowing his mom had gone there to pick up a weapon she had ordered for self-defense about the time the gunbattle had erupted. Soon, officials confirmed that his mom was among the dead, Linda Billiot said.
“It’s shocking — I’m not processing it,” Linda Billiot said. “I haven’t slept since I learned what happened.”
The president of New Orleans Navy Housing and Patrician Management — Billiot’s employer — said she had “led a full and successful life both at home and work” and was “dedicated to her employees.”
“She served our company and the military families at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Belle Chasse for 15 years,” Patrician Management president Alex Lewis said in an emailed statement. “She was a tireless worker with a passion for excellence along with a deep respect for our military families.”
Fischbach’s widow remembered her husband as a devoted partner and father with ambitions to climb the film industry’s career ladder. He worked as a special effects specialist and an armorer, who supervises the proper and safe use of all weapons on a film set.
Because of coronavirus restrictions on the film industry, Fischbach had been spending more time working his other job at Jefferson Gun Outlet, said Nancy Fischbach, his wife of 14 years.
Yet he also made time to be a devoted husband, such as when he planned a day full of surprises such as wine, pastries and other treats for their recent anniversary.
“He was amazing,” Fischbach said of her husband, with whom she was raising a 13-year-old son, Ethan. “Words can’t describe the person he was. He was so genuine, so real, so true. He was my soulmate.”
Williams’ family, for their part, pushed back against statements that he was to blame for the violence at Jefferson Gun Outlet.
He went to the store with his brother and some children, a relative of Williams said Saturday. That relative, who declined to be named, doubted Williams would have shown up spoiling for a gun fight at a place he knew to be frequented by off-duty law enforcement officers and ex-military personnel.
Family members noted Williams has gone to other gun ranges in the region and never had a problem. Also, a woman on social media who said she was Williams’ mother posted a message on social media saying he didn’t go into the range shooting and that he was fired at by employees of the business.
“My son … was MURDERED,” wrote the woman, who identified herself as Trudy Edwards.
A knock on the front door of Williams’ home address went unanswered Sunday.
Jefferson Gun Outlet principal Michael Mayer jumped to the defense of Fischbach and his other employees on Sunday.
Mayer said he had to limit his comments because the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and other officials are still conducting investigations, but he issued a statement accusing Williams of assailing his store’s employees after they asked him to unload his handgun.
“Our store was attacked by Joshua Williams,” Mayer’s statement said, in part. “One customer as well as one employee perished in the (ensuing) gun battle. Joshua Williams, the gunman, is also dead.”
(c) 2021 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.