Kimbrady Carriker used to visit his elderly grandmother at her home in Philadelphia every week to help her with grocery shopping and getting her computer tablet to work.
But the visits stopped suddenly about a month ago, she told The Independent in an interview on Wednesday.
“That was unusual,” the grandmother, who identified her surname as Carriker but asked that her first name be withheld, said.
In the days since her grandson’s alleged shooting rampage left five dead and at least two wounded in the Philadelphia neighbourhood of Kingsessing on Monday night, Ms Carriker said she had been searching for answers about what triggered him.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out, what happened for him to snap like that. What happened?” she told The Independent.
“Nobody’s going to get up out of the blue and kill people. You have to have something going wrong in your life.”
Carriker, 40, was charged with more than 30 counts, including murder, attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault at a preliminary arraignment on Wednesday.
Authorities say Carriker armed himself with an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun and dressed in a bullet-proof vest and ski mask to “wreak havoc” in the neighbourhood where he was living on Monday night.
The victims appeared to have been randomly selected, police said.
When she first heard about the shooting, Carriker’s grandmother said it reminded her of the first person shooter video games that he used to play for hours on end.
She told The Independent that she had never known of Carriker being in trouble with police, and hadn’t been aware he had been charged with gun offences in 2003.
Carriker was a very creative person, who was good with computers and graphic design, she said.
“Being older, I didn’t know anything about that so he used to come and help me get my tablet working.”
Carriker, described by police as an IT professional, had struggled to get patents for his website designs, and mostly did “odds and ends jobs”, she said.
“He wanted to be recognised for his own work, and at the places he went to work for that was not the case.”
Carriker is the eldest of five children, four brothers and a sister, and is very close to his siblings and mother Kim, his grandmother told The Independent. He called his grandmother “mama”.
On his since-deleted Facebook page, Carriker posted messages in support of Black Lives Matter as the United States went through a racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in 2020, according to the Daily Mail.
A review of the account by Vice News showed he posted repeatedly about gun rights, his support for former president Donald Trump, and contempt for President Joe Biden.
His grandmother described him as “very political” and someone who held staunchly anti-government views.
“He talked about what the government was doing, and what he didn’t like about it.”
Photos posted to social media of Carriker with long braided hair and dressed in women’s clothing have been falsely seized on by anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and commentators as proof that he was transgender.
“Another trans shooter,” Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on Twitter citing an article from the Post Millennium.
Ms Carriker said her grandson was gay and would sometimes dress in women’s clothing, but had not undergone gender transition surgery or treatment.
She said she made it clear to Carriker that she disapproved of him wearing women’s clothes due to her Christian beliefs.
“I saw him one time in female clothes, and from the expression on my face, from that point on, he never came in female clothes around me because he knew how I felt about it,” she told The Independent.
“He was trying to find himself. He didn’t know where he belonged. I used to talk to him about it, but he didn’t like to converse with me about things like that.”
She said she would always support her grandson, but had been left mortified and confused by the brutality of his alleged crimes.
“It hurts to see somebody hurt somebody else. He had to have been hurting himself in order to do what he did. But what tipped it off? What would make a person do such a thing?”
If she was to speak with him, she said she would probably start crying and ask him “what happened honey?”.
“I’m with you whatever the case maybe, I don’t condone badness, but I’m with you because you’re my grandson.”
The shooting unfolded at around 8.30pm on Monday when Carriker allegedly began “firing with a rifle at their victims seemingly at random,” police said.
Five people were killed in the attack: Lashyd Merritt, 22; Dymir Stanton, 29; Ralph Moralis, 59; Joseph Wamah Jr, 31, and Daujan Brown, 15.
Two children – aged two and 13 – were also injured by gunfire and are in stable condition. The two-year-old’s twin sibling and mother were also injured by broken glass, police said.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Carriker told police he was trying to help police prevent gun violence, and that God was sending more people to help him.