By Peter Szekely and Bernie Woodall
(Reuters) – A gunman dressed in a business suit opened fire inside a bank in downtown Cincinnati early on Thursday, 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 the suspect was Omar Enrique Santa Perez, 29, of North Bend, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb. He said the shooter, who fired a 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol during the incident, was not a former or current employee of the bank.
Investigators have not identified a motive for the shootings, Issac said. A search was conducted of his apartment, he said.
Santa Perez had about 200 rounds of ammunition with him during the shootings, Issac said. He said the firearm was apparently legally purchased.
The chief said he did not know if the suspect, who had lived in the Cincinnati area since 2015, had any history of mental illness.
The victims apparently were shot at random by the gunman, who had no accomplices, Issac said. Four Cincinnati police officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was killed by that gunfire. No officers were injured.
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 she could smell the gunpowder as he fired.
“All he had to do was look over the counter at us and we would have been shot,” Ginyard told reporters, adding she saw the shooter reload his pistol.
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 he heard up to 15 shots.
The Enquirer said some customers hid inside a bathroom at the bank, and one gunshot victim was found inside a nearby ice cream shop.
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 and Chris Reese)