Female employee dies in shooting at Avondale Best Buy; man still critical

Posted: Updated:
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona Dept. of Transportation camera from eastbound Interstate 10 and westbound Loop 101 (Source: ADOT) Arizona Dept. of Transportation camera from eastbound Interstate 10 and westbound Loop 101 (Source: ADOT)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Police have identified the woman shot to death at a Best Buy store on Monday. Police say Melissa Mendez, 26, was an employee at the store at 99th Avenue and McDowell Road in Avondale.

A man also shot has been identified as Henry Cota Jr., 27. He is still in critical condition at this time. Police say there was a history of domestic violence between Mendez and Cota. 

"Information gathered by the criminal investigations bureau has revealed the two subjects knew each other," Officer Jaret Redfearn of the Avondale Police Department said.

No officers were involved in the shooting and police were not searching for any suspects.

The gun believed to have been used in the shooting was located at the scene.

Investigators on the scene are still sorting out the moments leading up to the numerous shots fired calls that came into the 911 system shortly after noon.

"Information that we have right now is that there was [sic] multiple shots fired," Redfearn said at about 1:30 p.m., roughly 90 minutes after the first 911 calls.

"Fortunately, right now the scene is safe," he continued. "Our officers responded very quickly. There are other agencies here that we received assistance from very fast."

[WATCH: Officer Jaret Redfearn's first briefing at 1:30 p.m.]

Trooper Kameron Lee said DPS was one of those agencies.

"It does appear a suspect is in custody," Lee said in an email shortly after officers and troopers arrived on the scene but reiterated that Avondale P.D. is heading up the investigation.

While police have not officially confirmed any details yet, the mother of a young woman who is a cashier at the store told our Mike Watkiss that a man walked in, shot a female cashier and then shot himself. 

Redfearn said that early indications are that some of the shots were fired inside the store and some just outside.

The shooting remains under investigation.

It's a terrifying situation -- a shooting a busy shopping center in the middle of a weekday -- but it's one for which law-enforcement agencies all over the country prepare. And their goals are the same.

"Our No. 1 concern is the safety of the citizens and of our community," Redfearn said.

Officers and detectives on the scene have their work cut out for them.

"We have to make sure that we get every single investigative lead gets followed up on," Redfearn said, explaining that there are many witnesses to whom police need to speak. "If anybody saw anything, we want to talk to them."

You can reach the Avondale Police Department at 623-333-7001. (Click or tap phone number to call from this story on your mobile device.)

Best Buy released the following statement:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and children of Melissa Mendez after she was senselessly shot and killed on Monday. Domestic violence has no place in our society, and this tragic event is an example of how destructive it can be. Melissa, an employee at our Avondale store for more than seven years, was well-liked by her colleagues and great at her job. Counseling has been made available for our employees. Our Avondale store remains closed at this time.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • Social Connect

  • Contact

    AZ Family