Washington: A longtime public utilities employee sprayed gunfire "indiscriminately" in a government building complex in Virginia Beach, in the US state of Virginia, killing 12 people and wounding five, police said.
The gunman was also killed after trading fire with responding officers, police chief James Cervera told a news conference on Friday.
"We have 11 deceased victims there at the scene, six more victims transported to area hospitals," he said, adding that the condition of those wounded was not immediately available.
The shooting happened just after 4:00 pm (local time), when the gunman entered one of the buildings at the Virginia Beach municipal complex and "immediately began to indiscriminately fire on all of the victims," Cervera said.
The wounded included a police officer, who was saved by his bulletproof vest.
This is the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach," Mayor Bobby Dwyer told reporters. "The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors and colleagues." The building where the shooting took place in Virginia Beach, a city on the east coast of the US about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Washington, housed the city's public works and utilities offices.
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI were working the scene Friday night due to its "size, scope, intensity," Cervera said.
"Right now we have a lot of questions. The whys, they will come later. Right now we have more questions than we have answers." According to the Washington-based Gun Violence Archive monitoring group, Friday's shooting was the 150th mass shooting in the United States this year, defined as a single event in which four or more people are shot or killed.
Despite the scale of gun violence across the nation, gun ownership laws are lax and efforts to address the issue legislatively have long been deadlocked at the federal level.
Megan Blanton told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper that she was in the building when the shooting began. She and several co-workers hid in an office, where they used a desk to wedge the door shut.
"It felt like forever," Blanton said.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called it "just a horrific day." "Our thoughts are for the victims and families. We're working with our law enforcement, first responders, our folks at the hospital and just making sure we take care of everybody right now," he said as he prepared to enter a briefing on the situation.
Added Virginia Senator Tim Kaine: "I'm devastated to learn of the tragic shooting tonight in Virginia Beach. My heart is with everyone who lost a loved one, and I'm praying for a swift recovery for all those who have been injured." Singer and music producer Pharrell Williams, a native of Virginia Beach, paid homage to the strength of his hometown.
"We are praying for our city, the lives that were lost, their families and everyone affected. We are resilient," he said in a tweet.
"We will not only get through this but we'll come out of this stronger than before we always do."