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Maryland Rite Aid shooting survivor, still in hospital, recounts day of attack

Purna Acharya is recovering at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center after he was shot during the Rite Aid distribution center shooting in Aberdeen on September 20, 2018.

On Monday night, Purna Acharya lay on a hospital bed inside Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He still had serious pain in his stomach, where he had been shot Thursday while on the job at a Rite Aid warehouse in Aberdeen.

He was in stable condition, but a bullet remained lodged into the left side of his lower abdomen. He pointed at it.

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If he hadn’t stood up a moment before the bullet struck, would he still be alive?

Three other shooting victims had died Thursday in the attack, and the suspect — temporary worker Snochia Moseley — had killed herself as well. Two other people had been injured.

Recuperating in his hospital bed, Acharya spoke to The Baltimore Sun of how he came to be in that warehouse from his native Nepal, and what happened that morning. Next to him stood his wife, Neeru Kayastha; friend and fellow Taekwondo competitor Kumar Karki; and Harry Bhandari, a Democratic candidate for state delegate from District 8 and teacher with Baltimore City Schools.

Bhandari, also from Nepal, helped translate for Acharya, who speaks limited English.

Acharya, Kayastha and daughter Katerina Acharya, 12, had come to the United States from Nepal three years earlier. Kayastha, 39, played soft tennis — a variation on tennis popular in Asia — and had represented Nepal in international competitions. Acharya was an international Taekwondo athlete. They were living in Perry Hall, learning English and saving up to start their own sports schools in the U.S.

Acharya, 45, had started work at the warehouse as a packer three weeks earlier.

He had begun his shift at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and was sitting with several others on break, eating breakfast, around 9 a.m. His back was toward the main door.

He heard several loud shots.

Acharya started to get up from the table. Before he could stand all the way up, he looked down and saw blood coming out of his stomach.

If he hadn’t stood up, would he still be alive? “It could have hit my head,” he said.

The man sitting next to him had been shot twice in the back, he said — but could still move. Acharya stuck tissue paper over the hole in his stomach.

The two ran toward the front door to escape.

“People were scattering,” he said. “Smoke was everywhere.”

One of those hit was Acharya’s friend Brindra Giri.

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She was sitting at a table closer to the door, Acharya said. He had carpooled with her and others that morning to work and described her as “innocent” and someone “who worked very hard and never complained.”

The mother of two didn’t survive.

He saw at least one person lying on the floor and another outside. The two men ducked into a car and awaited an ambulance. Acharya said he passed out and doesn’t remember much after that.

According to police, Moseley, 26, shot seven people including herself. Acharya was one of the three survivors. Police are still investigating the motive.

Acharya said he didn’t know Moseley and didn’t recognize her picture. He said it appeared she was shooting randomly across the warehouse.

The fatalities include Giri, 41, a Towson woman also from Nepal who had recently moved to Baltimore; Hayleen Reyes, a 21-year-old Baltimore woman from the Dominican Republic; and Sunday Aguda, a 45-year-old Dundalk man originally from Nigeria.

The others injured are Hassan Mitchell, 19, of Harford County and Wilfredo Villegas, 45, of Montgomery County. About 65 people were at the warehouse.

Maj. William Davis of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office told Aberdeen’s mayor and City Council members Monday that Moseley, of White Marsh, had been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, but she answered “no” to questions about whether she had been diagnosed with a mental illness when filling out paperwork to purchase a handgun. She legally obtained a 9 mm handgun in March of this year, according to police.

Speaking Tuesday to The Baltimore Sun, he said she had been prescribed medication for her illness, but was not aware whether she had taken her medication.

Moseley shot 13 rounds and, Davis said, still had seven more to go after she shot herself.

“What is confusing to us is that she also had handcuffs and mace," he said. “We don’t know what she was planning to do with them.”

Davis said business surveillance cameras were not helpful.

“They just showed the who, but not the why,” he said.

Authorities have not been able to access her cellphone as of Tuesday, and it was unclear to Davis whether investigators had found a computer to research.

Police had no knowledge of any significant relationship Moseley might have had with a co-worker. Davis was also not aware of any calls to police about her or from her prior to the shooting.

On Monday evening, Acharya was in stable condition. A hospital spokesperson said staff could not discuss his condition because of patient confidentiality restrictions.

Acharya and his wife said they were unfamiliar with this kind of gun violence.

The shooting “was very unexpected,” Acharya said, and “isn’t a good thing at all.”

The violence has left his wife and daughter increasingly uncertain about their future.

Kayastha said their daughter “doesn’t feel good at all, doesn’t want to stay” in the U.S.

The Rite Aid center was the third U.S. workplace to erupt in gunfire i a span of 24 hours last week.

Around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, four people were shot at a software company, WTS Paradigm, in Middleton, Wis., by a 43-year-old co-worker, Anthony Y. Tong, police said. The gunman was shot and killed by police. Three of the injured were in serious condition as of Thursday morning, one suffered a graze wound.

Then, around 2 p.m., four people including a police officer were shot after a man opened fire outside a judge’s office in a municipal building in Masontown, Pa. The suspect, Patrick Dowdell, 61, was shot and killed by police. Dowdell had a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday on domestic charges of strangulation, aggravated assault and terroristic threats from an incident several weeks ago, according to news reports.

There were 500 workplace homicides in 2016, an increase of 83 cases from 2015, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter David Anderson contributed to this article.

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