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Sniper in D.C. shoots four causing panic, police believe targets were random people

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Emma Kinery

Bloomberg News

The shooting of four people by a sniper in northwest Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon forced residents and students into a lock down that lasted well into the night — until the gunman was found dead in his apartment.

“The suspect that we believe is responsible for this is now deceased,” Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said at a nightime news conference with Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We believe that the suspect took his own life as MPD members were entering or breaking the apartment where the suspect was located.”

The gunman opened fire on people walking in the warm April sunshine five floors below. “It just appears that this person was shooting randomly at anyone who was out there,” the chief added. “I can confirm that this was very much a sniper-type setup with a tripod and this person, obviously his intent was to kill and hurt members of our community.”

Once inside the apartment, according to Contee, the police “recovered over six firearms, including several long guns, multiple, multiple rounds of ammunition and handguns as well.”

He said that the gunman fired “definitely an excess of 20 rounds.”

Earlier, Assistant Police Chief Stuart Emerman said “we are seeking a person of interest that we would like to speak with,” whom he identified as Raymond Spencer, 23, of Fairfax, Virginia.

Contee did not identify the suspect, but said the police were no longer looking for the person of interest.

Emerman said investigators began focusing on Spencer after finding his name on social media. He did not elaborate.

Contee said that while the investigation was continuing, it was not believed that anyone else was responsible. The authorities were able to “isolate the location where the shooting was coming from to the fifth floor of this particular apartment building, so they were able to lock that down and ultimately again reached that location where the suspect was,” Contee said.

The police initially said three people had been shot in a neighborhood that includes two university campuses, two private schools, apartment houses, restaurants, stores and a Metro station. Some of the schools went into lock down and police advised residents to shelter in place.

A 54-year-old man, a 12-year-old girl and a woman in her 30s were in stable condition at area hospitals, district officials said. Emerman later said a fourth victim, a woman in her 60s who suffered a graze wound, had come forward.

The wounded man, Contee said, is a retired Metropolitan police officer.

“We are very focused on getting people help and stopping gun violence,” Bowser said at the second of three conferences after the shooting occurred. “Unfortunately, I had to look in parents’ eyes tonight who were terrified. And they were terrified thinking of what might happen to their children. We have experienced this too much in our country, the epidemic of gun violence, the easy access to weapons, has got to stop.”

The shooting come as multiple U.S. cities grapple with heightened anxieties about rising crime and violence.

Earlier this month, residents and commuters in New York City were rocked by a chaotic rush-hour shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn. And in March, police arrested a suspect in a string of shootings of homeless men in Washington and New York.

Metropolitan officers were assisted by the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division, the University of the District of Columbia Police, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he said.

Bowser, who is running for reelection to a third term with a Democratic mayoral primary in June, has faced pressure from voters about violent crime, carjackings and homeless encampments in the District during the pandemic.

In January, several people were shot, one fatally, at a hotel up Connecticut Avenue from Friday’s shooting.

And at the Friday night news conference, references were made to a series of sniper killings that terrorized the Washington area 20 years ago.

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