Four of the victims were expected to survive, including one whom had been shot nine times.
A man in Florida who has been repeatedly accused of groping women walked into a yoga class and opened fire on Friday evening, according to Tallahassee police – shooting six people and killing two of them despite an attempt to fight him off.
Police said the shooting suspect, Scott Paul Beierle, 40, killed himself minutes before they arrived at the Hot Yoga studio, which sits above a row of restaurants at northern Tallahassee shopping center.
"In my public service career, I have had to be on some bad scenes. This is the worst," City Commissioner Scott Maddox wrote after viewing the attack's aftermath. "Please pray."
About a dozen people were inside Hot Yoga when a man with a black bag walked in around 5:30 p.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported. The studio had advertised a Pilates certification class for the weekend.
Among the students were 21-year-old Maura Binkley and 61-year-old Nancy Van Vessem – respectively a student and a faculty member at Florida State University, which would later mourn them both.
Police were still determining a motive behind the shooting.
Beierle had been arrested twice in the past six years by the university's police, according to criminal records. The first time was in 2012, when two women accused him of grabbing their buttocks on campus, the Democrat reported. He was detained again two years later for trespassing in a dining hall.
Both charges were dismissed, but Beierle was arrested by Tallahassee police in 2016 and that time agreed to a plea deal for misdemeanor battery. He had asked a sunbather at his apartment if he could put lotion on her, the Democrat reported, and groped her when she refused.
Survivors said Beierle kept walking in and out of the yoga studio as class began on Friday evening, according to Melissa Hutchinson, who works at a restaurant below Hot Yoga and later cleaned a survivor's blood off the kitchen floor.
"They said he just kept coming in and out the doors and was a little sketchy," Hutchinson told the Democrat. "But nobody said anything."
The man eventually stopped in the studio's doorway, pulled a gun from the bag and loaded it in front of the students. Only then did people try to flee or fight.
"Everyone started pounding on the windows and the walls," Hutchinson said. "I heard a couple people at Riccardo's heard the pounding. They weren't sure what it was. They said it sounds like someone was hitting sheet metal."
Then the reports of gunshots soon filtered through the ceiling of Riccardo's pizzeria, Food Glorious Food and the other establishments on the shopping center's lower level.
Shanta Combs told the Democrat she was drinking with friends at Bar on Betton when heard the bartender yell: "'Active shooter, get down, get away from the window!"
Panicked and wounded people fled down a staircase from the studio and ran inside for shelter. Combs said she embraced a woman who couldn't stop hyperventilating. Then "I see this kid in a white T-shirt with blood coming out of his forehead," she said.
The "kid" had been pistol whipped while trying to fight off the gunman, police later said.
Another customer at the bar, Kristin Jacobs, was among several who praised his actions. "I am alive because one guy in a yoga class in his bare feet ran at a shooter," she told the Democrat.
Police said the first officers arrived about three minutes after the 911 call, at 5:40 p.m. Seven people had been shot inside the studio, including Beierle, who appeared to have killed himself.
Four of the victims were expected to survive, including one whom the Democrat reported had been shot nine times.
Binkley and Van Vessem died of their wounds.
A doctor of internal medicine and director for Capital Health Plan, Van Vessem also worked for the same university that Binkley attended and the suspected gunman had been barred from after his first groping arrest.
"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," school president John Thrasher said in a statement to The Associated Press.
As his officers shuffled in and out of the shopping center behind him in the early morning, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo told reporters he did not yet know what connection, if any, Beierle had to the victims.
The suspect had lately been living in Deltona, on the other side of the state, DeLeo said. Investigators were trying to figure out "what made him come to our community and commit this heinous act."
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor in Tuesday's election, left the campaign trail and returned to his city overnight to see survivors in the hospital.
"No act of gun violence is acceptable," he wrote on Twitter. His Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, called the shooting "heartbreaking."
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that a crowd stood outside the barricaded shopping center late into the night, some in tears.
"It's awful that this is a thing," Hutchinson told the newspaper. "It's very terrible that this is a thing."
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