CINCINNATI -- A usually busy Fountain Square was empty Thursday afternoon except for a single piece of yellow tape. Down the street, a woman screamed and sobbed into the arms of a Cincinnati police officer.
About an hour earlier, a Fifth Third Bank employee said he saw a gunman dressed in business attire walk into the lobby and spray bullets at innocent people. The employee saw the gunman as he exited a lobby elevator. He jumped back inside, narrowly avoiding a hail of bullets -- he heard them strike the elevator door when it closed.
Three to four Cincinnati police officers exchanged fire with the gunman, Chief Eliot Isaac said. One of the officers shot and killed him, according to Mayor John Cranley.
The gunman killed three people and another two people were injured. The shooting was the first Downtown in 2018.
Here's what we know about the shooting at Fifth Third Center:
1. The shooter was Omar Santa-Perez
Isaac identified the shooter as 29-year-old Omar Santa-Perez, of North Bend. He had lived in the area since at least 2015.
Santa-Perez was armed with a 9 mm gun and Isaac estimated he had about 200 rounds of ammunition. Police believe he purchased the firearm legally.
Investigators had not yet determined a motive, but were actively investigating.
Santa-Perez died at the scene, Isaac said.
2. Shooter entered the loading dock, then the lobby
Santa-Perez entered the loading dock area of Fifth Third Bank headquarters and opened fire at about 9 a.m., Isaac said. The suspect then entered the lobby area, where he shot at people and police officers.
No police officers were injured. The two people who were shot were transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Here's a timeline of the shooting:
- 9:07 a.m. -- Officer calls in shooting to dispatch
- 9:08 a.m. -- Active shooter on the first floor
- 9:11 a.m. -- Suspect down inside building
- 9:13 a.m. -- Officer reports locations of victims
- 9:13 a.m. -- Officer reports finding survivors in closet
3. Mayor Cranley: Police killed suspect
A Cincinnati police officer shot and killed the gunman, Cranley said in a news briefing shortly after the shooting.
Cranley said officers responded "within seconds" of the shooting.
"It's heartbreaking," Cranley said. "This is not normal, and it shouldn't be viewed as normal. This is abnormal. No other industrialized country has this level of active multiple shooting on a regular basis … I think there's something deeply sick at work here, and we as a country have got to deal with it."
There is no information yet surrounding the number of shots fired by the gunman and police officers. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the gunman fired "multiple rounds" from a handgun, which was later recovered from the scene.
4. One victim is employee of Rhode Island building company
Richard Newcomer, an employee of Gilbane Building Company in Rhode Island, was one of the three people killed in the shooting, his employer confirmed.
Newcomer, 64, had been assigned to a project on the third floor of the Fifth Third Center.
Officials have not year identified the other two victims killed. One of the surviving victims is in critical condition; the other victim is in fair condition.
5. Shooter is not former or current employee of Fifth Third Bank
Lt. Steve Saunders said Santa-Perez was not a former or current employee of Fifth Third Bank.
Hamilton County deputies started searching the home where they believe the Fifth Third Center shooter lived Thursday afternoon, according to Lt. Dave Daugherty.
Authorities taped off several buildings on Miami Avenue near Brower Road in North Bend.
6. People nearby hid, feared for their lives
Janetta Cook said she heard gunshots that "never stopped" as she was working at Servatti on Fountain Square. She locked the doors and barricaded herself in the shop's bathroom with her co-worker, Michele Parks.
Cook thought about her son at home as she hunkered down in the bathroom. She thought about waking up Thursday morning without a clue her life would be in jeopardy hours later.
"We were really, really close, and all that was going through my mind was, ‘They coming, they're coming for us,'" Cook said. "The shots got closer, and closer, and closer, and closer, and that's all you can think about is, ‘I'm next, I'm next, I'm next.'"
Parks said the gunshots sounded so close that it sounded like they were coming through the walls of the store.
"There was nowhere we could go," Parks said. "The only thing we could do was to protect each other, go in the bathroom and pray everything was okay."
7. Cincinnati Public Schools students were inside the building
Seven members of a Cincinnati Public Schools program who were working in the Fifth Third Center are safe, a CPS official said.
The students went into lockdown along with their instructors once word of the shooting spread, according to Lauren Worley, a CPS spokesperson.
The program, called Project SEARCH, provides internships for students over 18 with special needs, Worley said.
The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a one-year educational program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school, according to its website. It is targeted for students whose main goal is competitive employment.
8. Police chief: Protocol followed in terms of lockdown
Isaac said it appears officials at Fifth Third Bank properly responded with lockdown procedures.
"These are things we see happening across the country, and we all have to be vigilant and prepared to deal with these situations," Isaac said.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials were on scene to sweep the building, ATF spokesperson Suzanne Dabkowski said.
Isaac said investigators will conduct interviews, process the crime scene and review security and body camera footage in the coming days.
Fountain Square is closed to foot traffic, and all events are canceled. Federal Bureau of Investigations agents are on scene. SWAT cleared the building.
9. Gov. Kasich grieves for victims
Ohio Gov. John Kasich praised Cincinnati police for their quick action in stopping the shooter and shared his personal grief over the deaths of the three victims.
"It's just a terrible, terrible situation," Kasich told WCPO by phone from New York Thursday morning. "The law enforcement in Cincinnati did a fantastic job in responding. I talked to the mayor. All of the folks in my public safety department have been in touch with the officials in Cincinnati" to offer support.
Kasich, who lost his parents suddenly in a tragic traffic accident in 1987, grieved along with the victims' families.
"It's just terrible. I'm in a meeting in New York with a ratings agency about the strength of our state and I just walked in and said, ‘Hug the ones you love' because you just never know. You just never know what's going to happen in this world today," Kasich said.
"I couldn't even imagine the calls that have to go out to the loved ones saying, ‘Here's what happened.' When that phone rings, you put yourself in their shoes. It's just a black, black dark hole.
"So we grieve for the loss of life. We also want to stand with those who were injured and their families. What can you say? It's just a terrible, terrible situation."
Other officials offered statements amid the tragedy.
10. First shooting Downtown in 2018
The shooting was the first to happen Downtown in 2018, according to city data.
The last fatal shooting reported in the Central Business District involved a single victim and occurred on July 7, 2014, according to the city's open data portal. The shooting took place on 8th Street and Garfield Place right outside the main branch of the Cincinnati library.
The map below displays shootings in the Central Business District since January 2014.