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'No clear motive': Greenwood police, FBI release new findings from July shooting at Greenwood Park Mall

Greenwood Mall Presser
Posted at 11:33 AM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-21 18:37:33-05

GREENWOOD — Diane Paul's grandsons were in the Greenwood Park Mall food court when a young man armed with a high-powered rifle started randomly shooting people.

Elisjsah Dicken happened to be standing near the boys at the counter of Blondie's Cookies when the man emerged from a bathroom and started firing a rifle at people in the food court on July 17.

Dicken was carrying a handgun of his own. He pulled that gun and fired 10 shots from a distance of about 43 yards. Eight shots hit the shooter, who fell to floor and died.

"Eli Dicken truly is a hero," Paul said. "Eli Dicken was a hero. He truly saved my grandsons' lives."

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Elisjsha Dicken is recognized as the armed civilian who killed the gunman at the Greenwood Park Mall.

The shooter killed three people before Dicken's shots ended the rampage. The victims were Pedro Pineda, 56; his wife Rosa Mirian Rivera de Pineda, 37; and Victor Gomez, 30, all of Indianapolis. A 12-year-old girl suffered minor injuries in the attack and was transported to a hospital, police said.

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Despite months of investigation, it's still unclear why the young man fired those shots into the mall, Greenwood Police Chief James Ison said Wednesday during a news conference. He said Dicken's fast thinking and good marksmanship put a quick end to the shooter's threat.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Elisjsah Dicken saved many, many lives that night," Ison said. "And he is a true hero."

Dicken, 22, of Seymour was not at the press conference in the Greenwood City Center. He's avoided the media attention and has turned down multiple requests for interviews, according to his lawyer Guy Relford.

"He's a hard working guy and he doesn't want to be in the public eye," Relford said, speaking to reporters after the news conference. "He doesn't want to make public comments. He wants his life back."

Investigators with Greenwood Police and the FBI spent months examining evidence, combing through police and child welfare reports and sifting through the shooter's social media posts.

"There is no clear motive as to why the shooter committed this crime or why he chose the time and place to do it," Ison said.

The shooter, Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, 20, of Greenwood, left no messages, social media posts or emails explaining his motives. Investigators found evidence that he read manifestos left by other mass shooters, Ison said, but he left nothing of his own.

A girlfriend told police the shooter was a racist, but Ison said there's no evidence the killings were racially motivated. The victims were all Hispanic, but Ison said they were also the people who happened to be close by when the man started shooting.

The same girlfriend told police the shooter had been abusive and had once stuck a gun in her mouth during an argument, Ison said. Police were never called to investigate the abuse, Ison said.

"She also reported that he once told her 'This world is not made for me and I will not live past 20 years old,'" Ison said. "He also told her that if he ever killed himself, he would take others with him."

Beginning in 2017, Ison said the shooter posted more than 700 comments on Reddit forums related to mass attacks.

"We were unable to locate any comments made by the shooter on the subreddits that would indicate he was planning on carrying out such an attack," Ison said. "On the contrary, almost every post was more of a discussion or debate concerning other high-profile mass killings around the country.

"It seemed that he enjoyed debating with others the tactics, motives and details surrounding these incidents."

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Greenwood Police Chief James Ison

Witnesses said the shooter had a fascination with guns and violence. He also showed interest in Nazism. But Ison said there just is not enough evidence to conclude that the shooter was motivated by hate.

The shooter had a troubled childhood. Ison said his parents split when he was five and he had grown up in Florida with his mother and brother.

From ages 11 to 18, he was the subject of a dozen child protective services investigation reports. The allegations included abuse, neglect, drug use and truancy, Ison said. He was in foster care six times before his older brother was granted custody and became his legal guardian in October 2018.

He had lived with his brother at the Polo Run Apartments in Greenwood since 2018. His brother moved out of the apartment and removed his name from the lease in June, Ison said.

The shooter quit his job in May and no longer had an income. Meanwhile, Ison said, his father who had been helping out suddenly cut him off and stopped paying his cell phone bill.

The apartment complex notified the shooter that he was being evicted for not paying rent.

"The bottom line is, this was a young man with a very troubled upbringing," Ison said. "His world was crashing in around him."

He left a laptop computer and a can of butane in an oven turned up high. The butane exploded and the laptop was too damaged to recover any data, Ison said.

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GPD and IMPD are responding to a shooting at the Greenwood Park Mall.

The FBI dried out the shooter's cellphone, which had been found submerged in a bathroom toilet. They are working to crack the password protection, which could take months or years, Ison said. Ison said he will issue an update if the cell phone is unlocked and it contains any useful information.

The FBI's Baltimore office in 2019 investigated an anonymous tip traced to a comment on Reddit now believed to be associated with the shooter. The tipster said the person posting expressed a desire to learn about mass shootings, seemed to idolize mass shooters and had access to guns, Ison said.

The FBI traced the post to the Polo Run Apartments' free wi-fi, which can be used by any tenant. They had no information to link it directly to the shooter, Ison said. The investigation was closed in March 2020.

There was nothing in the shooter's criminal history that disqualified him from purchasing firearms, Ison said.

The shooter walked from his apartment complex and entered the mall near the food court at 4:54 p.m. on July 17. He carried two disassembled AR-15-style rifles in a backpack. The shooter had purchased both legally at Greenwood gun stores, police said.

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He also carried a .357-caliber Glock 33 handgun, police said. Ison said that gun had been given to the shooter by his brother.

The shooter spent about an hour in a men's bathroom before stepping out at 5:56 p.m. He sprayed two dozen 5.56-mm rounds into the food court using a Sig Sauer M400 semi-automatic rifle, police said.

The rampage lasted just 15 seconds before the civilian, Dicken, shot the shooter. The shooter was carrying multiple magazines and more than 100 rounds that day, police said.

The shooter was near-sighted and not wearing glasses or contacts that day, which Ison suggested may have limited his targets.

But Ison said there is no doubt the shooter wanted to kill more people.

"The trajectory of this incident was changed by Elisjsah Dicken," Ison said. "We're thankful that he was there to prevent it from being any worse than it was."

The Johnson County Prosecutor's Office says it will not press charges against Dicken.

More: What we know about the armed civilian who killed Greenwood gunman | What we know about the mass shooting at Greenwood Park Mall | Greenwood Park Mall mass shooting: First victim had a gun, no time to use it | Greenwood mall mass shooting suspect fired 24 rounds in 15 seconds

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.