At least 13 people are dead, including the gunman, and another four wounded after a “disgruntled” employee stormed a city building in Virginia Beach in Virginia.
The shooting is believed to be the deadliest act of workplace gun violence in the United States since February, when a factory worker killed five colleagues in Aurora, Illinois, just after he was retrenched.
The mass shooting in Virginia Beach unfolded about 4pm on Friday local time inside Building Two of the city’s municipal centre complex, a facility which houses the city’s public works and utilities next door to City Hall.
The coastal resort city’s police chief James Cervera told a press conference at 9pm on Friday local time the precise circumstances of the shooting remained under investigation but the gunman was a longtime current municipal employee.
Chief Cervera said the gunman “immediately and indiscriminately fired upon all the victims” after he entered the municipal building.
“We have a team of investigators … the FBI and state police processing this most horrific scene. We are in the process of identifying the victims.
“We also have four additional victims being treated in area hospitals and we have reports of others being self-transported.
“We do know who this suspect is,” he said.
Chief Cervera said that when the initial report came out that there was an “active shooter in Building 2 of the municipal complex”, up to 400 people were potentially inside the building when the gunman opened fire across three floors.
“Immediately, four officers responded … due to the sound of gunfire they were able to locate the floor the suspect was committing his crimes on, they immediately engaged with the suspect and I can tell you that it was a long gun battle between those four offices and the suspect.”
He said police found a .45 calibre handgun with “multiple extended magazines that were empty”.
“During this gun battle, the officers stopped this individual from committing more crimes in that building,” he said.
“The suspect did shoot a police officer. The officers returned fire. The suspect is deceased,” Chief Cervera said, adding the officer’s life was saved due to wearing a bullet-proof vest.
“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” an emotional Mayor Bobby Dyer said at a news conference with the police chief shortly after the shooting.
“The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbours, colleagues.”
“This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said after 11 people were killed and 6 others injured by a city employee who opened fire in the public works building this afternoon. The gunman was killed by police. pic.twitter.com/X4vP9gfZSa
— Jane Harper (@janeharpervp) June 1, 2019
Employee Megan Banton, 30, who was inside the Operations Building when the gunman opened fire, was grabbed by her supervisor and about 20 other staffers and taken into an office, pushing a desk against the door.
Local newspaper The Virginia Pilot reported Ms Banton called 911 and said “it felt like forever” before police arrived.
She said it was “surreal” and she said she thought about her family and prayed that everyone was safe.
Planning Department employee Arthur Felton, 18, also told the paper he was also inside when the shooting started.
“I never thought this would happen in my building,” Mr Felton said. “The people who were shot – I’m sure I know most of them.”
— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) May 31, 2019
Virginia Beach, which sits on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, is the state’s most populous city with roughly 450,000 year-round residents.
CNN reported the state of Virginia is still in shock after Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg before taking his own life in April 2007.
According to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organisation which documents gun-related violence in the US, the Virginia Beach shooting is the 150th mass shooting across the country so far this year.