WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Three people were killed in a shooting at a Delaware courthouse that authorities say stemmed from a years-long custody dispute.
The New Castle County Courthouse remained closed Tuesday as workers repaired shattered glass and investigators continued to probe Monday’s shooting, which happened just as the courthouse opened for the day.
Authorities did not identify the gunman but said the shooting was related to a custody dispute that had gone on for years.
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said one of the women killed was the shooter’s estranged wife, but Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack would not confirm that Monday.
Bill Heriot said he was waiting to enter the courthouse Monday morning when he saw a heavy-set man, who appeared to be in his 50s, pull out a semiautomatic pistol and fire at two women.
“I saw them both go down…. It was very disturbing,” said Heriot, who was a plaintiff in a court case that was to be heard this week.
Heriot said the shooter then exchanged gunfire with police before falling to the floor.
Shavack declined Monday night to confirm Heriot’s account of the shooting, saying investigators were still reviewing surveillance video and taking witness statements.
After the shooting stopped, Heriot said he knelt down beside the first woman who was shot.
“I turned her over and unbuttoned her coat. I saw a single bullet hole in the center of her chest,” Heriot said. “I held her hand, told her it was going to be all right. Her pupils dilated. She turned pale and passed away.”
Chick Chinski, 62, of Middletown, also said the shooter seemed to deliberately target the two women who were killed.
“Absolutely,” said Chinski, who was reporting for jury duty. “It’s right what he went after when he come in the door. That’s exactly what he did instantly.”
Authorities were expected to release the names of the victims Tuesday.
Two police officers were also shot, but were treated at a hospital and released. Chief William Jopp of the Capitol Police, which provides security at state government buildings, said they were protected by their bulletproof vests.
Authorities said the gunman opened fire in the lobby of the courthouse, where people line up to go through metal detectors.
“He did not break the (security) perimeter,” Shavack said.
Jose Beltran, 53, an employee at the courthouse, said he heard two shots, “Boom, Boom,” as he was entering the lobby. Beltran said he heard at least three more shots as he turned around and ran.
“It happened so fast,” he said.
After the shooting, police searched the courthouse room by room as a precaution. Streets around the courthouse remained cordoned off Monday night.
Diana Dorn, who lives right behind the courthouse, said she heard the shooting from her bedroom window.
“You could hear it really clear,” she said.
In response to the shooting, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s office said he would return early from a trade mission to India.
“While this shooting is notable for the fact that it took place inside a state courthouse, there are some aspects of this incident that are, unfortunately, all too common,” Markell said in a statement. “I am saddened that two more brave members of our law enforcement community have been injured in the line of duty. I am also saddened that this appears to be another example of a domestic situation that turned deadly.”