A gunman wearing a business suit opened fire in the heart of a well-known downtown Cincinnati area Thursday, killing three people and wounding two others before police confronted and killed him.
The attack that started about 9:10 a.m. sent thousands of people in the Fountain Square area scrambling away or hiding inside their buildings.
“I made it out to see my kids, to see another day,” said Jaenetta Cook, who manages a first-floor bakery.
>> Suspect said he was being watched
She and two other employees of Servatii Bakery locked the door and hid after hearing shots that “sounded as if they were getting closer and closer.”
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac identified the shooter as Omar E. Santa-Perez, 29, and said the attacker did not work in the Fifth Third Bank Center building where the incident happened. Investigators knew of no motive, but Isaac said they were looking into “mental health issues” involving Santa-Perez.
Isaac praised the four responding officers who arrived quickly, encountered Santa-Perez and fired.
”Their bravery and heroic actions stopped the shooter before his rampage continued to do more harm,” the chief said.
Santa-Perez had a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a couple hundred rounds of ammunition, Isaac said, adding that several of the victims were shot more than once.
Those who were killed in the shooting were Pruthvi Raj Kendepi, 25; Luis Felipe Calderon; and Richard Newcomer, 64. One of the victims died at the scene, and two others died at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Two other victims were injured in the shooting, but their identities have not been released. UC Health spokeswoman Kelly Martin said one victim remained there in critical condition and another was listed as serious.
Isaac said the department expected to release more about the victims today.
Police were confident the shooter acted alone, the chief said. Santa-Perez had been in the Cincinnati area since at least 2015, Isaac said.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the attack represented another in a series of mass shootings across the United States.
“This is clearly an act of grotesque violence to innocent people, and it should frighten all of us,” he said.
The 30-story building where the shooting happened is the corporate headquarters for Fifth Third Bancorp, parent of Fifth Third Bank. The building at 38 Fountain Square was locked down for hours, and Fountain Square, normally bustling, was closed off.
The Fountain Square area includes restaurants, retail stores and a hotel, and it often is the site of concerts, food trucks and dancing.
“It could have been any one of us,” Cranley said.
The mayor praised police who ended the threat and the response of other emergency personnel.
“It could have been much, much worse,” Cranley said.
Isaac said investigators have video from several cameras that likely captured the shooting scene, including building security cameras from Fountain Square and body cameras from the officers who responded. The chief expected to release video today.
In the hours after the shooting, Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies swarmed the North Bend apartment building where Santa-Perez lived, nearly 15 miles west of Cincinnati.
Investigators took a computer and several brown bags of evidence from the scene of the raid. An older model Subaru was towed from the scene shortly before that. The same vehicle was sniffed out by a police dog earlier in the afternoon.
“He always looked mad,” said neighbor Steve Conner of Santa-Perez. “He would stand down here on the corner near the stop sign, (and) he would just look at the ground. I tried to say ‘hi’ to him a couple of times when he walked by, but he wouldn’t say anything.
“I’ve never seen him with anybody else. It was always him by himself.”
A plaintiff named Omar Santa-Perez, whose listed North Bend, Ohio, address in court documents is the same searched by police on Thursday, filed two lawsuits in 2017 and 2018 claiming that large organizations “maintained electronic watch” or made “unwarranted intrusion” onto his personal devices, according to court records.
In December 2017, Santa-Perez filed a suit against NBCUniversal Inc. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. He sought $5.1 million in punitive damages claiming NBC Universal harassed him by eavesdropping on his personal electronics and that TD Ameritrade colluded with NBCUniversal to make that happen.
In June 2018, he filed a suit against CNBC Universal Media, LLC and TD Ameritrade in U.S. District Court seeking damages of $3.3 million. He claimed the two businesses “maintained electronic watch on communication devices owned by Plaintiff.” A magistrate recommended that suit be dismissed.
Karen Rose, who said she lives in the basement of the same apartment building as the suspect, said, “There’s been bad everywhere you go. For the most part this is a pretty peaceful place.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.