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An employee opened fire at manufacturing plant in Maryland on Thursday afternoon, killing three co-workers and critically injuring another before he was shot by a state trooper in an exchange of gunfire that left both wounded, the authorities said.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the facility near Smithsburg, Md., about 70 miles northwest of Baltimore, in response to reports of an active shooter at about 2:30 p.m., but the man had already fled, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies found three people dead and one person in critical condition at Columbia Machine, a company based in Vancouver, Wash., the sheriff’s office said. Officials from the company did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails.
Maryland State Police troopers who headed to the plant spotted the suspect based on a description of him and his vehicle, the sheriff’s office said. When they tried to stop the vehicle, the man “immediately” started firing at them with a semiautomatic handgun, injuring a trooper, the sheriff’s office said. Troopers returned fire.
The injured trooper was treated at a hospital and released, while the condition of the suspect was not immediately provided.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear.
The employees who were fatally shot were Mark A. Frey, 50, Charles E. Minnick Jr., 31, and Joshua R. Wallace, 30. The man who was critically injured is Brandon C. Michael, 42.
The suspect was identified as a 23-year-old from West Virginia, but the authorities did not release his name because he had not been charged, Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.
Mayor Donald L. Souders described Smithsburg as a small town of about 3,000 residents about 35 miles south of Gettysburg and just north of Antietam.
“We’re a town that has seen tragedy before,” Mr. Souders said. “And we’ve rallied. And we’ll do the same thing and be there for the victims, their families, the survivors and for the officer that was injured today.”
The sheriff’s office said that federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were helping in the investigation.
Columbia Machine is a private company founded in 1937 that designs, manufactures and supports “factory automation equipment solutions for a variety of industries” and does business in more than 100 countries, the company said in a 2019 news release.
The shooting came after a series of recent high-profile mass killings, including one in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in a statement Thursday evening that he was “devastated” by the shooting.
“Today’s horrific shooting comes as our state and nation have witnessed tragedy after tragedy, and it’s got to stop,” he said. “We must act to address the mass shootings and the daily toll of gun violence on our communities.”