Exclusive: WinCo shooting victim recalls terrifying moments before a bullet hit her head

Matthew McQuin knew he needed help.

The out-of-work truck driver had not slept in two nights.

He believed someone was trying to poison him with vapors from pesticides or drugs.

And he kept making the 30-mile drive between his Umatilla home and the Tri-Cities, trying to get away from “those guys” who kept messing with him.

Investigative reports and interviews released to the Tri-City Herald under the state public records law detail McQuin’s travels before he walked into the Richland WinCo and shot a random shopper in the head.

Seeking out police

On that hot day in the summer of 2018, McQuin wanted someone to listen to him.

He first stopped a Hermiston police officer, then he talked to Umatilla’s police chief.

He ended up in the Tri-Cities a few hours later.

When he couldn’t find a Kennewick police car, he approached a Richland cop leaving work. The officer suggested he go to the nearby hospital or fire station for a medical check.

A few blocks away, McQuin drove around the entrance to Kadlec Regional Medical Center, but didn’t stop.

By now, it was getting darker and McQuin didn’t want to be alone.

He drove to WinCo Foods.

‘I snapped ... I didn’t plan it’

Soon after, McQuin shot a customer he didn’t know.

“It just happened so fast. Like I said, I snapped. You can, you can look at the, the video, you know. I’m just scared,” he later told Richland detectives. “I didn’t have the idea ... It was like a split second. I wasn’t, I didn’t plan it, you know.”

Fourteen months later, McQuin is headed to trial in October for attempted first-degree murder.

Matthew McQuin has been found competent to stand trial for the July 2018 shooting inside Richland’s WinCo Foods after undergoing two separate mental health evaluations. File Tri-City Herald

Prosecutors say the 46-year-old tried to kill Jenna Kline that night inside the crowded Columbia Point grocery store.

McQuin later told a state psychologist he has been having paranoid ideas for at least 17 years, and that he wasn’t in the “right state of mind” that night.

The psychologist concluded that despite suffering from schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, McQuin is competent to stand trial.

‘You look guilty’

Kline, a public health veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was shopping for groceries when McQuin came up behind her in the store.

“I noticed that someone was back behind me and he was kind of talking. And I just ignored him,” Kline told Richland Detective Erik Lundquist. “Then I was only like half turning towards him and he said, ‘You look guilty.’”

He pulled the gun out of his back waistband and tried to shoot once, but the safety catch was still on. Kline glanced at him, then turned back to grab a bag of English muffins.

Matthew McQuin is seen in this Richland WinCo Foods surveillance video shortly before he shot customer Jenna Kline. Tri-City Herald

The 33-year-old Richland woman thought she saw a gun in McQuin’s hand but she didn’t think it was real.

He tried to shoot again. The second time it fired.

“Then I heard it go off, and something hit my head and knocked my glasses off,” she said tearfully. “And then he was like going to go again and I just started running around the end of the aisle, up through the other aisle, because I didn’t see anybody nearby. So I just started running and yelling for help.”

He followed and tried to shoot a third time, but his gun apparently jammed, so he gave up.

Doctors are likely to testify that it was close to miraculous that Kline didn’t suffer a more devastating injury.

The bullet wedged between her skin and skull, lodging under her scalp.

An emergency room doctor told her she “got extremely lucky” and shouldn’t have any long-term effects from the wound.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone get shot (in the head) and not have it go inside your head, so you came off really lucky,” a doctor told Kline during her interview with police.

WinCo chaos

Police interviews show it wasn’t immediately clear to WinCo employees and other shoppers that there had been a shooting.

Employees in different areas of the store said they didn’t think much of the noise because they often hear glass jars break or carbonated beverages pop.

Customers reported hearing alarms from the emergency exits and just thought a shoplifter tried to get through a security door. Many casually continued shopping, reports said.

One shopper who’d been in the same aisle as Kline said he heard a loud pop, and turned to see her stumble back onto the ground as a man pointed a gun at her.

She was screaming and the man was yelling something.

The customer initially thought it was some kind of prank, like some videos on YouTube, and commented to his girlfriend how it wasn’t funny to do that in public.

But when he saw other shoppers abandoning their carts and fleeing the store, he realized it was a real.

Matthew McQuin told a state psychologist he was not in his right mind when he parked in front of the Richland WinCo Foods, walked inside and shot a stranger in the head in July 2018. File Tri-City Herald

Starting at 7:41 p.m., nearly a dozen calls poured in to 911 emergency dispatchers, with a couple of people saying there were multiple people shot.

Police prepared for a chaotic scene as they rushed to the store off George Washington Way.

‘I’ve been poisoned. ... I know she’s the one doing it’

Inside the store, Kline wondered why no one was helping her.

It wasn’t until she approached the center aisle that someone came to her aid. She was told to sit down near a checkout stand while an employee grabbed towels for the blood running down her face.

Eerily, McQuin already was sitting on a nearby bench with an employee standing guard, telling him not to “f------ move” until police arrived.

After his .22-caliber pistol had jammed, McQuin had walked over to the checkout stands and placed it on a grocery conveyor belt near a cash register. But he still had a hunting knife on his belt.

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Matthew McQuin set his pistol down on a grocery conveyor belt inside Richland’s WinCo Foods after shooting customer Jenna Kline in the head. Richland Police Department

Witnesses told police he seemed relaxed, like nothing had happened.

A store employee remembered seeing McQuin in the store before, usually minding his own business while shopping. She said he often was carrying a gun in a holster, which is legal under the state’s open carry law.

One of the first things he told officers was, “I’ve been poisoned. I had to do it. I know she’s the one doing it. I had to do it.”

Richland police interview

McQuin was taken to the Richland police station at 8:20 p.m., just as Detective Lundquist was sitting down with Kline in the Kadlec emergency room.

It had been 45 minutes since she’d been shot.

Kline said she’d only lived in the Tri-Cities for two years and did not recognize her attacker.

She often travels for the USDA doing food safety inspection, and said she’d only returned home two days earlier from a work trip.

Her voice was shaky.

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Still pictures taken from surveillance footage show the moment Matthew McQuin shot Jenna Kline inside the Richland WinCo Foods on July 30, 2018. Richland Police Department

“I wasn’t even sure what had happened because I just, it just didn’t seem real,” she said. “Because I felt something hit my head and it knocked my glasses off, and I looked down and they were on the ground. And I saw the gun and it looked like he was going to go shoot again.”

“I feel like ... it was out of the blue,” she said. She added that she wanted to call her mom and tell her what happened, but she knew she’d freak out.

The detective worked to keep her calm, even talking her through breathing exercises and trying to lighten the mood.

While photographing the wound, he told her, “This might be one of the coolest bullet wounds I’ve ever seen, in that it went under your skin and stopped at your skull.”

An officer drove her home that night and others checked in later to make sure she was OK.

‘It’ll get people’s attention’

McQuin spoke openly with detectives for three hours that night, though he never specifically said he shot someone.

He often said he didn’t remember “the exact moment.”

However, he said, “It’ll get people’s attention,” and “This is gonna be my last hurrah.”

At one point, he encouraged an officer to adopt his “good dog” since he felt he’d be locked up for some time.

Trixie, the dog of Matthew McQuin, was found in his car outside WinCo Foods in Richland following the shooting. Tri-Cities Animal Shelter

Detectives noted in their reports that he was breathing heavy and had a scattered train of thought, often jumping between the present and the past.

He talked about how he believed a group of people had been trying to poison him for more than a decade through vents in his home, motel rooms and even when he was driving a truck.

He called it a “no-touch crime” because police wouldn’t be able to trace the poison.

McQuin said “they” were messing with him because he had ratted out some people.

When he spoke to Umatilla Police Chief Darla Huxel that afternoon just before 4 p.m., he repeated the poisoning story but wouldn’t give names because he was afraid.

She said McQuin suddenly walked out of the station, so she assigned a detective to stop by his home later that evening to check on him. But by then, he was in Richland.

When he got to Richland

Three hours later, Richland Officer Shawn Swanson was headed home after his shift and was pulling out of the city’s secured parking area in his personal truck about 7:10 p.m. when he noticed a man sitting in his car.

Swanson said he “got the feeling something wasn’t right with him.”

McQuin backed up his car next to Swanson’s truck, asked if he was a police officer and shared that “people from Oregon were trying to poison his brain.”

The off-duty officer said it didn’t look like anything was medically wrong with McQuin, so he figured there might be some mental health issues.

“I recommended that if he felt he was poisoned, that he could go to the fire station within eyeshot of where we were at” or the nearby hospital, Swanson reported.

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Matthew McQuin circled the entrance to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, but didn’t go inside for help. Less than 30 minutes later, he shot a stranger in the head inside WinCo Foods. Sarah Gordon Tri-City Herald

He told McQuin that after he was checked, he could ask to talk to a police officer.

McQuin drove the half mile to Kadlec and circled the parking lot but didn’t stop or go inside, according to surveillance video.

He drove past the police station again and then went to WinCo. He left his lab, Trixie, in the car and went inside.

He returned to his car at one point, but on his second trip into the store he noticed Kline. She was carrying a large purse over her shoulder, and he believed she had a chemical inside to spray him.

McQuin later told detectives he definitely feared for his life, and thought Kline was watching him.

He said it would not have done any good to tell her to stop following him, and that it blew his mind once he realized he fired his gun, police reports said.

“I was in shock. ... I’ve never did anything like that before,” he said. “I just, I just know she was part of it.”

When asked what he would have done if he hadn’t had his pistol, McQuin said, “Nothing. ... I shouldn’t even have been up in Tri-Cities. Like I said, if they would have left me alone.”

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Matthew McQuin is seen on surveillance footage walking through WinCo Foods minutes before he shot a woman he believed was in on a plot to poison him. Richland Police Department

He tried to explain that the shooting was justified because it stopped people from messing with him, but it also was unjustified because he wished it had been one of the men he really believed were after him.

Back in Umatilla, a detective stopped by his home to check on him at 7:47 p.m., only to learn soon after that McQuin was involved in a shooting in Richland.

The Umatilla police chief later told Richland detectives that she could tell McQuin had been awake for a couple days and questioned if the military veteran was taking his medications.

She knew McQuin because he frequently stopped to talk with officers in the small community. And she’d heard that he had not seen a Veterans Affairs doctor for some time, according to police reports.

Mental competency

A psychologist from Eastern State Hospital has determined that McQuin understands the circumstances of the attempted murder charge and can help his lawyer prepare his defense.

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Matthew McQuin is scheduled for trial Oct. 14 in Benton County Superior Court on attempted first-degree murder for the July 2018 shooting inside Richland’s WinCo Foods. File Tri-City Herald

The psychologist’s report says he suffers from schizophrenia or a psychotic disorder, possibly brought on by using methamphetamine and marijuana. McQuin previously served time in prison for drug convictions.

He also continues to have paranoid delusions and hallucinations related to his sense of smell, the report said.

Defense attorney Ryan Swinburnson sought a second opinion, but later said he felt confident moving forward with a competency order after talking to his independent evaluator.

McQuin remains in jail on $500,000 bail. His trial is Oct. 14.


How we did this story

Veteran Herald court reporter Kristin M. Kraemer reviewed nearly a thousand pages of reports, interviews, videos and photos from the Richland Police Department investigation of the July 2018 shooting at WinCo Foods.

In preparation for Matthew McQuin’s October 2019 trial, we requested the documents under Washington state’s Public Records Act.

The videos, photos and reports arrived in installments in the past year and form the basis for the Benton County prosecutors’ attempted murder charge.

Herald videographer Noelle Haro-Gomez shared images from store surveillance cameras and other photos, along with excerpts from police interviews.

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Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.