MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOV/KTVI/CBS/KFVS) - Authorities in Maryland Heights, Missouri are investigating a deadly shooting at a community center on Monday night, Feb. 24.
Dozens of emergency crews responded to the Maryland Heights Community Center after witnesses reported hearing numerous shots fired at the facility around 8:12 p.m.
According to Maryland Heights Police Chief Bill Carson, a police officer was at the parking lot of the facility when the shooting occurred.
The officer had just finished up some paperwork at the center and was about to leave.
A woman came out of the building and told the officer that there was a man with a gun inside the community center and shots had been fired.
The officer immediately ran to the building and called for more police assistance.
When the officer entered the facility, Chief Carson said the suspect began shooting at the officer.
The officer was not hit.
When the officer returned fire, he hit the suspect.
Seconds later, Chief Carson said the suspect and the officer were involved in a running gun battle.
The firing stopped when the suspect became incapacitated on another floor from where the initial shooting began.
According to Carson, the entire incident happened in seconds, not minutes.
The suspect was transported to an area hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. He is in serious condition and in police custody at the hospital.
Chief Carson said the identity of the suspect will not be released until charges are filed, but stated the suspect is a 30-year-old male who is a part-time custodian at the community center.
The name of the officer involved in the shootout with the suspect is not being released.
According to Carson, the officer just graduated from the Police Academy 14 months ago.
“He responded like an experienced veteran,” said Carson. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him and how he handled the situation.”
“I believe the action of our police officer was actually very heroic," stated Chief Carson. “Again he immediately went inside the community center and confronted the gunman. I believe his action may have saved lives.”
Police said a motive for the shooting is not clear.
During the investigation, officers found a that a woman had been shot and she died at the scene.
Police have identified her as Maria Lucas, 45 of Olivette, Mo.
Lucas was a city employee in the customer service area for seven years. She was working as the on-duty supervisor at the community center on Monday night.
According to Chief Carson, the suspect was being sent home from work early, he confronted Lucas at the front desk of the community center, pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and shot Lucas in the head. She died at the scene.
After hearing the gunfire, city and community center employees took action by moving families and children to safety.
There were approximately 150 adults and children in the community center.
Many were at the center playing pickleball, volleyball, exercising, swimming and at the time.
"We heard about five to six shots go off and we started running toward the closet fitness room and dispersed throughout the closets, " said the witness.
Chief Carson said city employees have gone through active-shooter training and believes this helped in this emergency.
The community center will be closed until investigators finish collecting evidence and the scene is cleaned-up. Police said there is a lot of broken glass.
Along with the evidence, investigators will be reviewing the officer’s body camera video and surveillance video from inside and outside of the facility.
Chief Carson said the investigation is in the early stages and more information will be released at a later time.