A women is transported to a paramedic truck following a shooting Jan. 30 in a Phoenix office building. (Photo: Michael Schennum, The Arizona Republic)
Jane Lednovich and JJ Hensley, The Arizona Republic
- Dispute escalates into gunfire
- Shooter is still at large
- Motive for shooting unknown
PHOENIX - Three people were wounded, one of them critically, in a shooting Wednesday at an office complex in north-central Phoenix, police said.
Police are searching for the shooter, a white male, and say his motive is unclear.
Two of the shooting victims have less severe injuries, said Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department. Three others also were transported to area hospitals, but the nature of their injuries was not detailed.
"This doesn't appear to be a random type of incident," Thompson said. At about 10:30 a.m. MST, the gunman arrived at the office building, got into a dispute that escalated to the point where he drew a gun.
The shooting took place on the same day that Congress convened hearings in Washington on legislation to address gun violence. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was severely wounded along with 18 others two years ago outside a supermarket in suburban Tucson, Ariz., was among those testifying. Six died in that shooting.
A few hours after the Wednesday incident, a SWAT team surrounded a house 7 miles from the shooting scene that police say is connected to the shooting. Officers were talking to someone at the house who was not the suspect, Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos said.
Colin Campbell, a Phoenix lawyer, said his law firm partner was one of those shot.
The victim, in his 30s, was shot in his neck and lower back, according to Campbell.
The partner went through surgery for his wounds and "is going to be OK," Campbell said. He wouldn't identify his friend or the law firm until he had time to talk with the victim's family.
Witnesses who worked in the three-story complex in the 7310 block of 16th Street near Glendale Avenue where the shooting occurred characterized the office building as usually very quiet.
"I heard the shots and that's it," said Karen Frasier, a receptionist at Stearns Lending in the same complex. "I wouldn't know a gunshot if it jumped up and bit me because I'd never heard one. But some other people heard them and said that's what they were."
The gunfire prompted terrified workers throughout the complex that houses 10 to 15 businesses including insurance, health care and law offices, to lock their doors and hide far from windows. SWAT team officers searched the building.
"Everyone was just scared, honestly, just scared," said Navika Sood, assistant director of nursing at First at Home Health Services who, along with her co-workers, locked the entrances to their office.
Becky Neher, who works for a title company in the building, said the two gunshots she heard sounded like two pieces of metal banging against each other.
"Someone yelled, 'We have a shooter,'" she said. She saw two victims lying on the ground outside the back side of the building.
Rob Hayter, who works at Pioneer Title Agency, said he heard five or six shots before calling 911, looked out his office window and saw two bodies lying on the ground.
"It was a little tense. Everybody came and hid in the IT room," Hayter said.
A spokeswoman for the Albuquerque-based owner of the building, Louis Abruzzo of Alvardao Realty, said the shooting happened in the lobby. The 92,000-square-foot, three-story office building is more than 85% leased.
STORY: Giffords Asks Senate for Tough Gun Control
Abruzzo paid $10.2 million in cash for the office building in December 2011.
According to Larry Ruch, who operates out of a law office across the street, 50 police cars, seven to eight fire trucks and K-9 units converged at the location. It appeared to him that four people were taken out on stretchers; scores of onlookers took to balconies of nearby buildings to watch the scene unfold.
The area, just north of the Arizona Canal is dotted by small office complexes on both sides of the six-lane street.
In Washington, former astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, told the Senate panel about the Wednesday shooting during his time at the microphone: He said there had been "what seems to be a shooting with multiple victims with multiple shots fired."
Contributing: Amy B Wang, Lindsey Collom, Catherine Reagor and The Associated Press