By Peter Szekely and Bernie Woodall
(Reuters) – A gunman opened fire inside a bank in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday morning, killing three people and wounding others before being shot and killed by police, authorities said.
The shooter began firing inside a loading dock at the Fifth Third Bank headquarters near Fountain Square, police said. He then entered the lobby where he exchanged fire with law enforcement.
“He was actively shooting innocent victims, it appears, and our officers were able to kill him and stop the threat very quickly,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told a news conference.
The city’s police chief, Eliot Isaac, said he could not confirm local media reports that the gunman was a disgruntled employee of the bank, and said he had no information the victims were targeted. No police officers were hurt, Isaac said.
Witnesses said more than a dozen shots were fired.
Ebony Ginyard, who works at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Fountain Square, said she and other workers and customers dropped to the floor when the shooting started. She said the gunman was so close that she could smell the gunpowder as he fired.
“All he had to is look over the counter at us and we would have been shot,” Ginyard told reporters.
Another onlooker, Leonard Cain, told a newspaper he had been about to enter the bank when someone warned him about the shooting. Cain said he then saw a woman also walking into the bank and that people tried to get her attention, but she was wearing headphones and did not hear them.
“She walked in the door and he shot her,” Cain told The Cincinnati Enquirer, adding that he heard up to 15 shots.
The Enquirer said some customers hid inside a bathroom at the bank, and that one gunshot victim was found inside a nearby ice cream shop.
Another witness, Michael Richardson, who works in the Fifth Third Bank building, told the newspaper he was outside smoking a cigarette when he heard gunshots.
“I looked behind me and saw the guy – he shot and then he shot again. After that I started running,” he said.
Isaac told reporters the gunman’s weapon was recovered, but did not say what type of firearm he used. The police chief said he could not say whether the gunman was hit by gunfire from “at least three or four” police officers.
In a statement, Fifth Third Bank said its thoughts and prayers were with everyone caught up the “terrible event.”
The area around the 30-story skyscraper was closed to pedestrians after the shooting, and hours later several streets in downtown Cincinnati remained closed to traffic.
The mayor told reporters the situation was not normal and should not be viewed as such, adding that the United States is the only industrialized nation with frequent active shooting incidents.
“We as a country have to deal with it,” Cranley added.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman said he and wife Janet were heartbroken about the shooting in their hometown.
City councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that every city has its sacred spaces, and for Cincinnati that was Fountain Square, “a place of joy and protest and coming together.”
“The actions of one sick man doesn’t change that. That’s not what our city is,” Sittenfeld wrote on Twitter. “I will be eating lunch on Fountain Square tomorrow, mindful of the true character of Cincinnati.”
(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Bernie Woodall; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Gregorio)