US: Gunman kills three people at Maryland factory

Man taken into custody after attacking co-workers at a factory in the latest shooting in the United States.

A 23-year-old suspect and a trooper were taken to a local hospital for treatment after an exchange of fire with troopers (pictured) [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

A gunman has opened fire on his co-workers at a manufacturing facility in northern Maryland, United States, killing at least three people and critically wounding a fourth before being taken into custody after a shoot-out with police.

Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore said police responded to reports of an active gunman at Columbia Machine Inc in Smithsburg at about 2:30pm (18:30 GMT) on Thursday.

Three victims were found dead and a fourth victim was critically injured, Mullendore said. He declined to elaborate on the circumstances or possible motives behind the attack but said the gunman and all of his victims were employees of the facility.

The 23-year-old assailant, who was not identified by police, opened fire using a semi-automatic pistol and then fled in a vehicle before authorities arrived at the scene.

He was tracked down and wounded in an exchange of gunfire with a Maryland state trooper. Both the suspect and trooper were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

The sheriff identified those killed in the shooting as Mark Alan Frey, 50; Charles Edward Minnick Jr., 31; and Joshua Robert Wallace, 30. Mullendore said the wounded victim was Brandon Chase Michael, 42.

Maryland State Police Lt Col Bill Dofflemyer said the wounded trooper was doing well and that the suspect was being treated.

Dofflemyer said the suspect opened fire when police made a traffic stop. Troopers returned fire, wounding the suspect.

He declined to release a motive for the mass shooting. “We’re still working with sheriff’s office on what happened and why it kept escalating,” Dofflemyer told reporters.

A Columbia Machine spokesperson said the company was cooperating with authorities in their probe into the shooting but declined to comment further.

Tightening gun control

The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings plaguing the United States.

In late May, an 18-year-old man opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two teachers.

The killings in Uvalde and other recent tragedies have prompted new efforts in US Congress to enact stricter federal gun control laws.

US President Joe Biden made a forceful argument for reforms, including a ban on assault rifles, in an address to the nation last week, saying: “For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? … It’s time for the Senate to do something.”

US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, lamented the loss of life in his state and promised to take action.

“Today’s horrific shooting comes as our state and nation have witnessed tragedy after tragedy, and it’s got to stop,” he said in a statement. “We must act to address the mass shootings and daily toll of gun violence on our communities.”

David Creamer, a 69-year-old member of Smithburg’s volunteer fire department, told The Associated Press that he saw alerts related to the shooting go out shortly before 3pm local time.

“This stuff doesn’t happen here,” Creamer said. “Everybody pretty much knows everybody. It’s a family atmosphere. We watch out for each other.”

Smithsburg, a community of nearly 3,000 people, is located west of the Camp David presidential retreat and about 120km (75 miles) northwest of Baltimore.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies