Before a 24-year-old fired 59 shots inside a Pennsylvania supermarket — killing three fellow employees and himself — he documented his plan and motives in chilling and painstaking detail online.
Police say Randy Stair, of Dallas, Pennsylvania, blocked the entrances and exits to the Weis store where he worked in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, shortly before 1 a.m. after the store had closed. He opened fire with two-pistol-grip shotguns he carried into the store in a duffel bag.
Killed were Terry Sterling, 63, of South Montrose; Victoria Brong, 26, of Factoryville; and Brian Hayes, 47, of Springville. One witness escaped unharmed and called Wyoming County 911 dispatchers.
Stair detailed his plans in a video online — part of a massive, highly disturbing series of uploads that included videos, photographs, audio and journal entries posted just before the killings.
In that video, Stair said a co-worker goes on break every night and "when he goes out, I’m going to block the emergency exits. I’m going to get pallets and I’m going to put them in front of the doors.” Stair talked to the camera and described his plan in detail – even naming employees who would be in the Weis. He appeared lucid, articulate and organized in his plan. The 24-year-old in the gray American Eagle T-shirt on the screen taking occasional swigs from a beer bottle seemed unremarkable: no ranting, no screaming.
But this young man was waving two shotguns — he named them and scratched the names into each stock — trying the barrel of each in his mouth to see which would be a better fit in the end.
At the end of the 37-minute video, created May 11, he paused and was reflective.
“What’s going to happen in the future after this to prevent this from happening again?” he asks.
“And the answer is you can’t prevent it. You can only endure it,” he answers.
Part of the night crew each night takes a break at about 1 a.m. and Stair described where everyone would be, what they would be doing and how he would work his way through the market. “I want this to be on the surveillance camera so you can see it,” he said.
He talked about always having a back-up weapon in case the other breaks. The worst situation, he said, would be wanting to kill himself after the shootings and not have a working weapon.
Throughout the video, he details how he would use pallets to block exits. One door gave him a particular problem, but he said he seized on an idea while sitting in his car in the parking lot one night during break. He said the answer hit him like a train: Park his car on the door so it would not open. “That is the greatest idea I’ve ever had. .... That idea just changed everything."
“It’s May 11th, counting down the days. Can’t come fast enough. Every day I get more and more confident. I get more and more inspired,” he said.
Stair disclosed his seven-year anniversary of working in the market would be in June. Working night shift was the “icing on the cake,” he said. He got keys, he got alarm codes, he studied how the place worked.
In a written document online, Stair says he had been planning to die for more than four years and had been plotting the attack for three to four months. Stair cited a spiral of depression that began in 2013 and was convinced that his true persona was an alter ego he created, an animated female character named Andrew Blaze.
In an iPhone video for his family posted on June 3, Stair apologized for the iPhone quality because he couldn't get his Canon camera working.
"I know you might be thinking," he said, "you could have gotten help."
"That wouldn't be me," he said in his family message. Getting medication, sitting in therapy: "That's not me, never would be."
Stair said he worked to become a good liar, something he found difficult in childhood, to hide his depression. "I doubt any of you knew how depressed I was," he said in the video. "I hated life. I hated meeting people. I just hated going through everyday life."
Massive online presence
Recent social media posts indicate Stair may have been planning the massacre as early as four months ago, and clearly foreshadowed his plan with an ominous June 6 Twitter posting: "You won't want to miss this one. ... It's going to be historic."
A YouTube video Stair posted on June 7 shows him at a firing range and loading two shotguns with three slugs, wearing a shirt emblazoned with "It's our time to rise."
The video includes a dedication to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the duo responsible for the Columbine massacre on April 20,1999.
"I've been down. I haven't been happy," Stair said in an undated clip. "My head is deteriorating from the inside out."
Stair took on the identity of Andrew Blaze online and created a series of animated videos called "Ember’s Ghost Squad." The series centers on Ember McLain, a villain from the animated Nickelodeon series "Danny Phantom," which ran from 2004 to 2007. Ember is "an unpopular high school-aged girl who had large dreams of becoming a rock star," according to a fan wiki for the show.
Stair said he had been making videos for nine years. But he maintained a social presence on a dizzying array of social media sites, sometimes running multiple accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp and Instagram in addition to a fan wiki and DeviantArt account for his own works.
The YouTube channel had 428 subscribers. A video uploaded there June 7, the day before the killings, is called “The Westborough High Massacre (EGS) / Goodbye.” In the description, Stair writes, “This will be my final production and contribution to this world.” The opening slides of the 42-minute video consist of an expletive-laden tirade against “all of the people [who] screwed me over and left me hanging on this video.”
The video is a jarring compilation of animation and real footage, loosely based around the concept of a school shooting. Stair loads shotguns, and at one point, classmates appear to hurl insults at “Andrew.” At another point, a montage of black and white footage of Stair from across at least eight years plays to a cover of Adele’s “When We Were Young.”
“If it weren’t for YouTube,” a visibly younger Stair tells the camera, “I’d probably just be a teenager, sitting in his room all day, doing nothing.”
Reporting by: Anthony Borrelli, Neill Borowski, Maggie Gilroy, Kevin Hogan, Jeff Platsky and Kristen Cox Roby. The Associated Press contributed to this story.