Editor's note: This story has been updated significantly with additional details.
A gunman who opened fired on Monday night inside the Maryland Heights Community Center killed one woman, sending others in the building scrambling for cover before he was shot by a police officer, according to police.
Maryland Heights police Chief Bill Carson told reporters at a news conference this morning the shooter was a part-time janitor who was being sent home early that day and was angry. The 30-year-old, whose name wasn’t publicly released, shot 45-year-old Maria Lucas in the head.
Lucas of Olivette was the on-duty supervisor of the community center. She had worked for the city for seven years. It’s not clear whether she was the person who cut the man’s shift short, but he confronted her at the front desk.
“During the conversation, he pulled a handgun and shot her, striking her in the head,” Carson said.
The shooting panicked the 150 people who were in the center, where people were playing pickle ball and volleyball, swimming and working out. There were kids in the play center.
Carson said a woman who escaped from the center found a police officer in the parking lot and told him there had been a shooting. The officer, who had just finished some paperwork in a police substation at the center, hurried inside, where the shooter was pacing back and forth. The man still had a 9mm handgun in his hand and fired on the officer, Carson said.
The two exchanged multiple rounds during a gun battle that moved through the first floor of the center before the officer was able to wound the man, according to the chief.
Carson described the actions of the officer, who is just fourteen months out of the academy, as “heroic.”
“During the gun battle, the officer was in there all by himself, and he stayed with the suspect and kept him engaged until the suspect was down and no longer a threat,” the chief said.
The officer was not injured. The shooter was still alive on Tuesday morning and was being treated at a hospital for multiple gunshot wounds. Carson said police were in contact with the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office, but no charges had been filed yet.
People who were at the center described hiding in closets and waiting for help during the terrifying incident. In an interview with KMOV
, Tara Maryas said she and her daughter were among people who took cover as the shooting unfolded.
"We barricaded the doors, and everybody said 'Stay quiet, be quiet,' because we didn't know what to expect," she told the station. "We all stayed quiet and prayed."
A lifeguard, twenty-year-old Maya Furr, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
she saw the gunman enter and fire multiple rounds, killing a woman who she believed worked at the center.
The shooting began shortly after 8 p.m. Carson said there is video of the incident, from both the center’s “outstanding surveillance system” and the officer’s body camera, that detectives have been reviewing as they continue to investigate.
The community center is closed until further notice.
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