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Philly man charged in chaotic shooting inside Cheltenham Walmart

Keenan Jones, 30, has prior convictions for witness intimidation and assault, according to police.

Police were called to the Walmart in Cheltenham Township on Tuesday for reports of a shooting. Keenan Jones, the suspected shooter, was arraigned Wednesday on multiple counts of reckless endangerment and attempted murder.
Police were called to the Walmart in Cheltenham Township on Tuesday for reports of a shooting. Keenan Jones, the suspected shooter, was arraigned Wednesday on multiple counts of reckless endangerment and attempted murder.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

A Philadelphia man who police say "indiscriminately" fired a handgun inside a crowded Montgomery County Walmart, wounding five people, has been charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder.

Keenan Jones, 30, was arraigned Wednesday morning in district court in Cheltenham, a few miles from where the chaotic scene unfolded hours earlier. He is also accused of assaulting and injuring two Philadelphia police officers during a scuffle after crashing into their vehicle near the store.

A woman who accompanied Jones to the Walmart, identified as his sister, is cooperating with investigators and does not face criminal charges at this time, according to court officials.

Jones was granted $1 million bail by District Judge Christopher J. Cerski, who noted that Jones' prior criminal record – which includes felony convictions for witness intimidation and carrying a gun without a license – made him a flight risk.

At his arraignment, conducted remotely because Jones remained in custody at the Cheltenham police station, the fiber-optics contractor apologized to the police officers who responded to the shooting. He said he was "hurting," but not from injuries sustained during his arrest and the subsequent car chase into Philadelphia.

He told the judge he has mental-health issues and had thought that his life was in danger at the store.

"I need hospital help," Jones said. "I haven't slept in five days. I had food that had me feeling strange."

After the hearing, Jones remained in custody in county jail, unable to post bail. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Court records from Philadelphia cast a portrait of Jones as a man with a history of brushes with the law, with multiple convictions in the last decade. But it wasn't always that way.

Jones grew up on Elkins Avenue in the city's East Germantown neighborhood, the son of James Hayes and Jennifer Jones, according to a presentencing report compiled for a 2011 criminal trial.

He told investigators he was raised in a stable household with both parents working to support him and his three siblings.

A major turning point in his life was the loss of his father: Hayes was shot and killed in 2004 while trying to break up a neighborhood dispute over a dirt bike.

Jones and his siblings witnessed the murder. One of Hayes' sons — it's unclear which — later identified Hayes' killer to police.

Investigators noted in the 2011 report that Jones was deeply affected by witnessing his father's death and that "it appears [he] did not deal with this well."

His violent outburst at the Walmart began just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to a criminal affidavit filed in the case.

Surveillance video from inside the store showed Jones standing in a checkout line. He pulled out a black semiautomatic handgun and fired a single round at a man standing nearby, hitting him.

"Jones then begins to run through the front of the store and is seen firing additional rounds indiscriminately as the victims, employees, and customers run for safety," the affidavit states, describing the scene as "pandemonium."

Cheltenham Police Chief John Frye said at the store Tuesday that Jones had pulled the handgun from his sister's waistband and fired at least 10 rounds in quick succession. Authorities said Jones' sister owned the gun and was licensed to carry it. The shooting had been sparked by an altercation between Jones and another customer, but it was unclear what the argument was about, Frye added.

Ultimately, three people were struck by gunfire: two women and a man, all in their 40s. Two other people were grazed by bullets, police said, and a pregnant woman was knocked to the ground during the chaos.

One of the victims, a female employee, told police she was standing near the store's customer service area when she heard what she believed to be glass breaking near the registers. As she walked toward the area, she said, she saw Jones walking away, holding a gun. As she got closer, police said, Jones shot at her, hitting her three times.

Jones and his sister then fled the store in a Pontiac Grand Prix. At the corner of Cheltenham and Mount Pleasant Avenues, a witness saw Jones get out of the vehicle and discard a gun. Police later recovered the firearm, discovering that both its magazine and chamber were empty, "indicating that all rounds had been fired from the handgun," according to the affidavit.

A few blocks away, at Sedgwick Street and Forrest Avenue within the city limits, the sedan crashed into a parked Philadelphia police car, there on an unrelated matter. The officers inside the vehicle took Jones into custody after a "violent struggle," according to the affidavit. One of the officers fractured his wrist; another suffered a black eye and sprained ankle.

Elements of Jones' most recent arrest are similar to other crimes he's been charged with, court records show.

A year after his father died, Jones had his first contact with the city's Family Court, when he was arrested for drug possession and assaulting staff at school. He ultimately was arrested twice as a juvenile, the report notes.

In 2010, three years after his graduation from Germantown High School, Jones was convicted of witness intimidation, a felony, after threatening to shoot the alleged victim of a robbery his brother was accused of committing.

The victim told police Jones came to the business he owned "cursing and hollering at him about his brother's case," according to a criminal complaint in the case.

"If my brother goes to jail for five years, I will shoot you. I will find you no matter where you are and shoot your [expletive] ass," Jones said, according to the complaint.

Jones' felony conviction carried with it three years' probation. He violated it three times: two drug arrests in 2010 for possession of marijuana and an arrest the following year on more serious charges.

Police, acting on a tip from a La Salle University security guard, arrested Jones in the city's Logan section. While fleeing the scene of a shooting, he had tossed a Glock 9mm handgun out of a vehicle.

As a convicted felon, Jones was unable to legally possess a firearm. He was convicted of carrying a weapon without a license and related charges.