UPDATE (5/11/2023): Jalen Thomas has been officially charged with one count of murder and one count of unlawfully carrying a handgun.
LAWRENCE, Ind. – A Lawrence family is grieving after a woman is shot to death inside a Dollar Tree by a former co-worker.
Around 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, Lawrence police believe a man who had been fired from Dollar Tree for allegedly stealing in March, walked inside the store where without warning he shot and killed an employee on the job.
“We’re numb. It’s like we want to wake up from this dream because it can’t be real,” said the victim’s mother Dina Ford.
Dina Ford’s daughter, 25-year-old Jasmine Bennett, died at the hospital. Jasmine was known affectionately by her family as “Jazzy cakes.”
“It was just emotional this happened to her because she was a joy of life,” said Ford.
“You know she was just a sweet girl, always laughing and smiling. Everyone will say the same thing. She was always smiling,” said the victim’s step mother Sherry Stubbs.
Jasmine’s family gathered at a park in Lawrence to talk about their loss. They describe Jasmine as a hard worker, who loved her family and had an infectious laugh.
“She was a person I could go always to and she would always listen to me,” said her brother Michael Bennett.
“She had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody,” said the victim’s father Stephen Bennett.
Police said multiple employees helped identify Jalen Thomas as the killer. Thomas was arrested at his home shortly after the murder.
According to court records, Thomas confessed to the killing and admitted he was upset with Jasmine after she refused to exchange some merchandise for him a few weeks prior. Thomas purchased a handgun after that incident.
Thomas had also been upset the with victim’s mother, who is a manager at another Dollar Tree store. Thomas had a verbal altercation with the mother after she had promised him work hours, but then rescinded the offer.
“What the dynamics were that led to the shooting remains under investigation, but this was very much a situation between two people who knew each other and not a random act,” said Lawrence Police Chief Gary Woodruff.
Regardless of the motive, Jasmine’s family knows she didn’t do anything to justify her life being taken away at such a young age.
“It’s just unbelievable. She’s the last person I thought this would happen to because she was a genuinely nice person,” said her sister Krystal Caldwell. “It’s still a shock I feel like to all of us.”
The family is planning to have a candlelight vigil outside the store on Friday night.
The suspect is being held without bond pending the filing of formal charges.