Police say Grimmie was shot by 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl of St. Petersburg, Florida. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
ORLANDO — The Voice singer Christina Grimmie was fatally shot by a 27-year-old man — armed with two guns and a knife — who traveled to Orlando from another city in Florida specifically to kill her, police said Saturday.
Orlando police identified the suspected gunman as Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Grimmie, who had wrapped up her show with Before You Exit at the Plaza Live Theater, was shot late Friday while signing autographs and meeting fans. Loibl shot and killed himself after he was tackled by Grimmie's brother, Marcus. The 22-year-old singer died about five hours later at an Orlando hospital.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said earlier that there was no indication that Grimmie knew her assailant before he walked up to her during a meet-and-greet with fans and opened fire.
Mina said the suspect traveled from another — unidentified — Florida city to kill Grimmie. "He came here to commit this crime and had plans to travel back to where he came from," he said.
Mina said detectives hoped to get information from the suspect's phone to help establish a motive for the killing. Detectives were sent to the suspect's home city to search his residence and any computers or other evidence.
A fan of Christina Grimmie, Sheina Amaguer, describes what she saw and heard during the shooting of "The Voice" singer who was killed while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, Fla. USA TODAY
Mina indicated the suspect planned to leave Orlando by some form of public transportation, such as plane, train or bus. "There is is no car that we are looking for," Mina said. "He did make travel arrangements to get back where he was going."
Police said the suspect was carrying two handguns, additional ammunition and a large hunting knife. The shooting occurred near the back of the venue around 10 p.m. while Grimmie was hosting a meet-and-greet for fans. There were about 120 people in the theater at the time.
Mina said the gunman "approached her and opened fire, striking her." The police chief said the theater's security guards search bags of concertgoers when they arrive, but do not use a metal detector.
The Plaza Live canceled all activities and events at the venue until further notice.
"The board and the staff at The Plaza Live Venue are deeply saddened by the tragic events of Friday evening," the theater said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost as well of those who witnessed and aided in the recovery after this senseless act."
Police spokeswoman Wanda Miglio called Grimmie's brother a hero, crediting him with stopping the suspect from hurting anyone else.
Yesenia Camacho, of Tampa, said she heard the gun shots but they didn't sound like she would have expected.
"It's not the movie-type gunshots. It's this banging or popping and three times in a row, echoed," she said.
"It seemed fake. It seemed like the guys were just doing a little prank just to scare everyone and just to joke around and we were just waiting for someone to laugh and for them to comeback and tell us, you know we were just playing with you guys."
Sheina Almaguer, from Kissimmee, was in the audience for the show and said Grimmie "sang her heart out."
She did it for people to smile," she said,. "She was inspirational."
Almaguer said she was standing near the tour buses when the incident occured and she thought at first it might be a prank.
"A few minutes later, people were just running out and this one girl comes and cries on the floor," she said.
Grimmie, who built up a huge fan base YouTube, appeared on season six of The Voice in 2014 where she finished in third place.
#PrayforChristina started trending on Twitter as friends, fans and other singers hoped for the singer to pull through. Police announced early Saturday she had died from her injuries.
"There are no words," The Voice tweeted. "We lost a beautiful soul with an amazing voice. Our hearts go out to the friends, fans and family of @TheRealGrimmie."
Fans and celebrities have expressed their grief and outrage on social media as they learned of Grimmie's death.
Brian Teefey, of Grimmie's management company. LH7 Management, said "words cannot begin to describe the pain I am feeling."
"I learned this business through the eyes of a father and Christina was like a second daughter to me," he said in a statement. "All I wanted to do was assist her in achieving her musical dreams while protecting her from the pitfalls associated with the business. I never could have imagined this horrific event being one of the pitfalls needing to be avoided."
News of Grimmie’s death hit hard in her hometown of Evesham, N.J., where Mayor Randy Brown called her “one of Evesham’s shining stars” on Facebook.
“She was driven,” said Sam Student, who attended high school with Grimmie. “She knew what she wanted to do and did it wholeheartedly. … She was talented and I was fortunate to know her.”
Grimmie started out in her teens as a YouTube singer, posting videos of covers from her bedroom in Marlton, N.J. She eventually gained more than 2 million subscribers.
She reached a new level of fame after competing on The Voice on Adam Levine's team. Even though she placed third, Levine offered a record deal through 222 Records. Lil' Wayne also showed interest in her. She went with Island Records and was working on an album that was set to release in the fall — her first with a major record label.
"People have reached out to me after watching me on The Voice that I don't think would have taken me seriously when I was just solely making YouTube covers," she told Gannett NJ in 2015. "Being on The Voice stage week after week showed people that I can withstand pressure, keep myself in shape vocally, and constantly reinvent myself."
Grimmie was known for her incredibly wide voice range and discipline. Her cover of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball on The Voice stunned the audience and got a four-chair turnaround from the judges. After a cover of Drake's Hold On, We're Going Home, Rock and Hall of Famer (and Levine's mentor) Graham Nash said he was "amazed at the range and the control and the depth of her voice," according to People.
Fans remember not only Grimmie's talent but also her positivity. It's evident on her Twitter page, where several of her tweets have resurfaced, including some touching upon death and religion.
Daniela Ochoa of Sarasota, Fla. says she remembers three shots but like other witnesses, she says they didn't sound like gunshots.
"They didn't sound like shots. They sounded like balloons or someone knocking. They sounded sounded someone just hit the ground, it sounded like someone hitting something," said Ochoa. Ochoa added that they drove two hours back from Sarasota to pay their respects. "We were really sad and we wanted to come back," said Ochoa.
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.) staff writer Carol Comegno and Florida Today contributed to this report. Follow Doug Stanglin on Twitter @dstanglin