RENO, Nev. — A gunman took a woman hostage and opened fire on a downtown Reno street from the eighth floor of a condominium, stirring fears of another massacre like the one in Las Vegas, police said Wednesday.
The unidentified gunman, who apparently knew the female hostage, was fatally shot by police Tuesday night. The woman was not hurt and no one else was seriously injured.
The gunfire brought echoes of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history two months ago, but the streets in Reno were mostly empty on the cold weeknight when the gunfire began shortly before 7 p.m.
Police said they don’t know if the shooter actually was aiming at anyone in the street and may have been hallucinating when he fired dozens of shots over a 20-minute period.
Officers said the man believed to be in his 20s could have been “shooting at things he was seeing,” Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said.
“We don’t have any indication he was shooting at the hostage,” he told reporters. “From what we can tell, he was shooting down onto (the) street.”
Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino, had owned a unit at the same Montage condo complex in Reno where the shots were fired. Records show he sold the property located a block off the main casino drag in December 2016.
Robinson said police don’t know if the Reno shooter may have been a copycat. He said a motive had not been established.
Ken Gallop, a police officer in neighbouring Sparks, said Wednesday his department is leading the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of the suspect under a regional law enforcement protocol.
A preliminary investigation indicates the shooter was acting alone, he said. No further details were released.
It was not clear if the shooter or the hostage lived in the Montage building. Robinson said the two appeared to have “a domestic relationship, I just don’t know the extent of the relationship.”
Trooper Chris Kelley of the Nevada Highway Patrol told the Reno Gazette-Journal that shots were heard from the building for at least 20 minutes, and TV news reporters said they heard several shots after arriving. The shots were sporadic, not constant.
Karl Fiebiger, a seventh-floor resident, quickly left his condominium after police told him they had secured the seventh, ninth and ground floors of the tower. Police told him the shooter was on the eighth floor and they worried stray bullets could penetrate windows and floors.
“Honestly I knew the shooter was close, I could feel the windows vibrate, I could hear things falling from walls,” Fiebiger told the Gazette-Journal. “So I was pretty glad to evacuate because I knew I wasn’t in the safest situation if bullets started flying.”
Police said one of the phone calls came from the woman inside the room with the shooter. Police negotiators eventually were able to make contact with him while he fired shots out the window.
“He was holding her against her will and wouldn’t let her leave, so we were able to get in there and get her to safety,” Robinson said.
The suspect was alive when he was taken into custody but later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Police shut down several streets and evacuated the surrounding area when the gunman opened fire.
“When you heard it’s coming from above it reminds you of the guy shooting from Mandalay Bay,” said Mike Pavicich, who was in town on business from Las Vegas and was standing atop a parking garage at the neighbouring Eldorado Resort Casino when the shots rang out.
“It’s scary, you know?” Pavicich told the Gazette-Journal. “This is the same kind of town.”