Brother of Garner Walgreens shooting suspect: ‘I just don’t get it’

Wake County News

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) – Family members of the suspect in Thursday’s shooting at a north Garner Walgreens said they are “totally devastated” and in search of answers.

Investigators charged 60-year-old Stephen Denning with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill. Garner police said Denning shot pharmacist Sarah Wright and pharmacy technician Brandon Gordon shortly before 10 a.m. at the pharmacy on Highway 70.

A Wake County deputy shot Denning outside a Golden Corral located on the same road about a mile north, just inside Raleigh city limits. All three of the wounded people survived but suffered serious injuries.

Police radio transmissions released Friday afternoon reveal officers located Denning’s vehicle at the restaurant about 18 minutes after receiving notification of shots fired at the pharmacy.

“We all are just shocked. We, first of all, couldn’t believe it. We are all totally devastated.” John Denning said. “It’s hard to even find words for it, and then to hear exactly about the shooting and what happened, and then to know that the other families are hurt, that’s just more devastating. Our prayers go out to those families, as well.”

John said he is the middle child of 13, and Stephen is the next oldest by one year. John said they grew up as a religious family, reared by their parents to care about and pray for others.

“I just want people to know that we, as the family, we are caring about everybody in this situation. The other two families that’s involved, we care about them, and we care about our brother,” John Denning said.

“We want answers as well, to try to find out what really happened, but at this time, no one is telling us anything. We don’t know anything. We don’t know how it happened or how it got started.”

He said Stephen had one successful surgery Thursday night and was scheduled to have another operation at 3 p.m. Friday, but the family had not received an update as of early Friday evening. They have not heard much from physicians or police.

John wants to talk to his brother. Garner police said Friday that Denning is officially in custody while he continues to receive medical treatment, but he will not be formally charged before a judge until doctors determine he is ready to be moved out of the hospital.

Officers said they had not found records of any prior incidents involving Denning. John said he knew his brother owned a pistol and had a Concealed Handgun Permit, but he said Stephen’s possession of a weapon was for self-defense at home. 

The brothers live just a couple of houses apart on a street two blocks from the pharmacy. John said he frequents it as his neighborhood store, and he is sure he has been served by both of the seriously injured staff members.

“I’ve been in Garner all my life. I have a lot of close friends in Garner. I’m pretty sure (the people) hurt was close kin to somebody we know. I know they are, because we know just about everybody. We’re pretty close in this area,” he said.

“I just don’t get it. Just don’t get it.”

He said he will continue to pray for the shooting victims and their families.

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