Gunman kills 2 apartment workers and himself

March 20, 2008 2:38:27 PM PDT
A 52-year-old man opened fire on workers coming to inspect the apartment of a relative who was being forced to move, killing two and wounding three before committing suicide, authorities said Thursday. William T. Smith opened the door Wednesday afternoon at the Thalia Gardens complex and began shooting with an AK-47 assault rifle and a Mac 10 9mm semiautomatic handgun, police spokeswoman Margie Long said.

Police initially said Smith was being evicted, but Michael R. Devine, a vice president for the company that manages the apartment complex, said Smith was not on the lease, so the employees who went there were not expecting him.

Devine, of S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co., said he could not disclose the name of the leaseholder, but he described the situation as a non-renewal of the lease.

"This was not an eviction. This was a normal, routine operation. It was just like Virginia Tech. It was a normal day and then something went wrong," Devine said.

The apartment belonged to one of Smith's relatives, police said. It was not clear whether Smith was living there or just visiting.

Smith, 52, fatally shot 63-year-old maintenance technician Sam Shestul inside the two-story brick apartment building, Long said. The other workers ran outside, but Smith followed them, still shooting, she said.

Officers arrived to find maintenance technician Rebecca Diane Hughes, 32, dead in the parking lot and three injured people. Most of the victims were shot multiple times, and none had been armed, Long said.

The injured were taken to hospitals. Long said two were maintenance technicians and one was a community manager at the Thalia Gardens complex. At least one was in stable condition, Long said.

Smith went back inside the building, but when police arrived they were not sure where he was, Long said.

Several streets were closed off and residents were told to stay indoors while police searched for the gunman, and a nearby high school was locked down. Most students had already been sent home for the day.

SWAT team members began issuing orders by loudspeaker to the gunman to come out around 7 p.m. Police entered the building and found the bodies of Smith and Shestul after 10 p.m.

It wasn't immediately known when Smith died, but Long said it was clear he killed himself because police fired no shots.

Toni Spera, 25, said she was shopping for Easter presents for her 4-year-old son when she returned Wednesday night to her apartment complex about 12 miles from the resort city's oceanfront.

"All I could see was police everywhere with weapons," Spera said Thursday outside the sprawling, 590-unit apartment complex. She said she did no know Smith.

A bullet hole was visible Thursday in a window in the apartment building across the parking lot from the shooting, and gauze and a coil of plastic medical tubing lay on the ground beneath the window.

Police were checking to see whether Smith had permits for the guns, Long said. She said she could not comment on whether he had a criminal record.

Devine said his company was providing grief counselors for residents and employees and is setting up a fund for donations to help the families of the victims.

Devine said he never met Smith and doesn't know anything about him. He declined to talk about the victims.

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