A series of haunting text messages a mother sent to her daughter after a warehouse employee opened fire and killed three people have emerged.
A 26-year-old temporary employee is understood to have fired several rounds following a disagreement at a Rite Aid warehouse in Aberdeen, northeastern Maryland in US, on Thursday (local time), killing three and injuring several others before taking her own life.
Alexi Scharmann told WBAL-TV 11 News she received several messages from her mother inside the building, who believed they could be her final words.
“I love you both more than u will ever know. There is a shooter in the building,” her mother sent.
“I am hiding. I love you. Be good an take care of daddy an (sic) the pets if something should happen.”
Ms Scharmann said the shooting was a massive shock due to the employee’s “tight-knit” community.
The suspect’s name was not immediately released.
It appears only one weapon, a handgun, was used and no shots were fired by responding law enforcement officers, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said at a news conference.
The shooter used a 9 mm Glock that was registered in her name, he said.
He said authorities did not know her motive.
Witness reveals build up to shooting
Krystal Watson, 33, said her husband, Eric, worked at the facility and told her the suspect had been arguing with somebody else near a time clock after a “Town Hall meeting.”
“And she went off,” she said.
Watson said her husband told her the shooting started in a break room.
“She didn’t have a particular target. She was just shooting,” Watson said as she drove away from a fire station where relatives tried to reunite with loved ones.
“She didn’t aim. She just shot,” Watson said.
Area hospitals reported receiving five patients from the incident.
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore said it was treating four patients with gunshot wounds. Two were in stable condition and two who were seriously injured.
A spokesman for a health system that includes Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, said one patient was being treated there.
Christiana Care Health System spokesman Hiran Ratnayake said the person was in serious condition.
Sheriff Gahler said the call about shots fired came in about 9.06am, and deputies and other officers were on the scene in just over five minutes.
Mike Carre, an employee of a furniture logistics operation next to the distribution center, said he helped tend to a wounded man.
Mr Carre locked the doors of his workplace after the injured man came hobbling in, bleeding from his leg.
He called 911 from a bathroom before helping colleagues wrap the man’s blood-soaked jeans above his injury to cut off blood flow.
Mr Carre said the man told him the shooter “just came in in a bad mood this morning”.
“He said she’s usually nice. But today, I guess it wasn’t her day. She just came in to pick a fight with someone,” he said.
“She pulled out a gun and she just started shooting at her co-workers.”
Anxious wait for relatives
At a nearby fire station, family members were waiting to be reunited with loved ones.
Police blocked off the road outside but were waving in cars driven by people who said they were there to meet up with people who were at the distribution center.
Reggie Rodgriguez’s mother works at the distribution center. His wife had tried calling her numerous times but got no answer.
“I was calling her all morning. It went to voicemail because they keep their phones in lockers,” Kelly Rodriguez, 40, said.
When they finally reached his mother Thursday afternoon, Reggie Rodriguez said: “That’s all I wanted to do: Hear her voice.”
His mother was uninjured. He said she sounded relieved the crisis was over.
A law enforcement official said authorities were working their way through the distribution centre to clear the facility.
“We obviously need to methodically go through the entire complex, ensure there are no other victims inside, ensure that there is no one that was hiding from violence and ensure that there were no other suspects,” Christie Hopkins, communications director for the sheriff’s office, said.
“At this time, we are confident that the suspect acted alone. And that person is in custody. We do not believe there is any further threat to the community now, but we still have to completely clear that building.”
Maryland faces second tragedy in three months
The attack came nearly three months after a man armed with a shotgun attacked a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five staff members.
Authorities accused Jarrod W. Ramos of attacking The Capital Gazette because of a longstanding grudge against the paper.
Susan Henderson, spokesman for the drugstore chain Rite Aid, described the warehouse as a support facility adjacent to a larger building.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said that unfortunately, incidents like this are “becoming a too-often occurrence not only in Harford County but in the country.”