A man opened fire Friday evening at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, killing two people and injuring five others, before turning the gun on himself, police said.
People inside Hot Yoga Tallahassee appeared to have fought the gunman in an effort to save themselves and others, Tallahassee police Chief Michael DeLeo said.
Police identified the two killed as Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21.
The gunman, who was already dead when officers arrived, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the police chief said in a statement Saturday.
Police identified the gunman as Scott Paul Beierle, 40, of Deltona, Florida.
Interviews with dozens of witnesses and evidence led police to determine Beierle “entered the business posing as a customer and began shooting patrons with a handgun without warning,” DeLeo said Saturday.
It remains unclear what connection Beierle, who was staying at a local hotel, had to the yoga studio and the victims, DeLeo said. Investigators are working to determine the gunman’s motive.
A Defense Department official told CNN that Beierle was an Army veteran, but the official did not provide further details.
According to police, Beierle was a Florida State University graduate and had been the “subject of prior calls to police for service in the Tallahassee area related to harassment of young women.”
It’s believed he acted alone, DeLeo said, and there’s no threat to the community.
Police received 911 calls about a shooting at 5:37 p.m. Friday — minutes after a hot yoga flow class was scheduled to begin, according to the studio’s website.
When officers arrived, they found that six people were shot and one person had been pistol-whipped.
Two victims were in stable condition, police said early Saturday, and three others had been released from the hospital.
Of the two hospitalized, one was shot nine times, and the other had a bullet pass through her body, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum told reporters.
A doctor and a college student slain
DeLeo said investigators were unable to draw a connection immediately between the gunman and either of the deceased.
Binkley was a student at Florida State, and Van Vessem was a faculty member at the university’s medical school, CNN affiliate WCTV reported.
“There are no words to express the shock and grief we feel after learning of the deaths of Maura Binkley and Dr. Nancy Van Vessem. To lose one of our students and one of our faculty members in this tragic and violent way is just devastating to the Florida State University family,” Florida State President John Thrasher said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
“We feel this loss profoundly and we send our deepest sympathies to Maura’s and Nancy’s loved ones while we pray for the recovery of those who were injured.”
Van Vessem was a doctor specializing in internal medicine who was chief medical director for Florida’s Capital Health Plan, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported.
“As we process the gut-wrenching act of violence that took place this evening in a place of peace in our community, we hold in our hearts everyone who is affected and lift them up in love,” officials tweeted from the city’s verified account.
Gillum addresses gun violence on campaign trail
Gillum, who is also the Democratic nominee in the Florida governor’s race, took a brief break from campaigning and returned to Tallahassee on Friday evening after receiving news of the shooting.
“The truth is that these occurrences have become far too frequent in our society,” Gillum said. “I would ask that the community continue to lift up the victims, those who are still recovering from their injuries.”
Gillum met with victims Friday night after he returned from a Shabbat service in South Florida honoring the 11 people killed a week ago in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
He was back at it Saturday afternoon and addressed what he called “nonsensical gun violence” while at a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Orlando.
According to Gillum, one of the injured in Friday’s shooting told him, “I am expecting you to do something about this gun violence.”
“This is certainly not the news that I expected in the final closing days of this race,” he said, “but I want you to know that I am more agitated and activated, more than I ever have been when it comes to the need for us to bring the power of the NRA to kneel in the state of Florida and around this country.”
Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for Florida governor, addressed the shooting on Twitter on Friday night, calling it “heartbreaking.”
“Casey and I are praying for the families,” he said.