Grocery Store Shooter Denied Unsupervised Outings from Western State Hospital

Laura K. Sorenson was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 2012 killing of David Long.


For Heidi Michaelson, the memory of what happened at what is now the Lake Kathryn Food Market the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2012, is still fresh in her mind.

“I walk in there today and just stare. That’s where my brother was standing.”

Michaelson’s brother, David Long, who lived near the store, was one of three people shot when 20-year-old Laura Sorenson entered what was then Peninsula Market, pulled a .357-caliber revolver out of her purse and opened fire. Long was shot three times while standing at a checkout lane, with one bullet going through his chest and out his back. He was taken to Tacoma General Hospital where he died two months later from complications due to his injuries.

Lee Crider, a 70-year-old Key Peninsula resident, was shot in the leg, and a 20-year-old store employee received a leg wound from a ricocheted bullet. After she emptied her gun, customers and other witnesses held Sorenson down until police arrived.

Sorenson was initially charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree assault. Court documents showed Sorenson suffered from a history of mental illness and was on medication. The documents said she heard voices telling her to kill pedophiles and entered the store intent on killing men.

A year after Long’s death, Sorenson was charged with first-degree murder. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed indefinitely to Western State Hospital in Lakewood, where she remains today.

Now, more than 10 years after the shooting, Sorenson last month was denied “unescorted community outings” privileges by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Shelly Spier-Moss, despite risk-evaluation and recommendations from the hospital’s Risk Review Board, the Public Safety Review Panel, and Behavioral Health Administration Assistant Secretary Kevin Bovenkamp to grant her the privilege. She was denied a similar request in December 2021 because there wasn’t unanimous support.

“This is not an easy decision for the court. While they say (Sorenson) is low-risk, if she were to escalate, it could result in the death of a human being,” said Spier-Moss. “I feel like the leap I’m being asked here going from escorted outings to (unescorted outings) is too great. I don’t feel I can put the community at that kind of risk.”

Spier-Moss also noted that Sorenson is not symptom-free and continues to “struggle with anxiety, intense emotions and reactions to stressors.”

This wasn’t the news Michaelson was expecting, but what she was hoping for.

“I’m very happy,” she said after testifying at the hearing, along with family friends Matt Graham and Tracy Geiss. “This means our community is a little safer for another year.”

She expects Sorenson will eventually be granted the privilege.

“I have heard hints over the last five years that she may get out, but I was prepared for 20 years down the road,” said Michaelson. “It’s only been nine years (since Sorenson’s commitment) and the fact they’re considering unsupervised outings is out of my realm of common sense.”

Sorenson’s treatment team said she’ll be on anxiety medication for the rest of her life and is still trying to improve controlling her anxiety when out in the community. She’s already had nearly 30 escorted outings and if her treatments improve may likely be granted unescorted privileges within the next two years.