MONTREAL -- A gunman opened fire at a downtown Montreal college yesterday, killing a 20-year-old woman and injuring at least 19 other people, eight critically, before police shot and killed him.
Witnesses said the man, in his 20s, with a mohawk haircut and wearing a long black trench coat, started shooting randomly with an automatic rifle about 12:40 p.m. outside the Dawson College campus, near a spot where students gather to smoke.
Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme said officers arrived minutes after the shooting began and eventually shot the suspect, who died at the scene. Police did not know the man's identity and were unaware of any motive, Delorme said. "There is no racist or no terrorist link as far as we know," he said.
A search of the man's car nearby uncovered several other weapons and ammunition, said Montreal police spokesman Robert Mansueto.
Officials have not released the name of the woman who died. The wounded ranged in age from 18 to 22, Mansueto said.
The gunman fired 12 to 15 shots in quick succession before entering a campus cafeteria, where he opened fire again, according to witnesses, who started running or dived to the ground. Some of the shots sprayed across the street into a coffee shop in the Alexis Nihon Plaza.
"We ran out of the building as a SWAT team was coming in," student Michel Boyer told CBC, Canada's national broadcasting network. "They were screaming, 'Where is he?' And when you have 20 police running at you with guns, you really know that your life is in danger."
The suspect was shot inside the school. Witnesses said the rampage lasted about 20 minutes.
Quebec's provincial police, Securite Quebec, will investigate the shooting, Delorme said. Under the Quebec system, when a police force is involved in a fatality, another police force has to conduct the investigation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the shooting.
"Today, we have witnessed a cowardly and senseless act of violence unfold at Montreal's Dawson College," he said. "Our primary concern right now is to ensure the safety and recovery of all those who were injured during this tragedy."
The shooting had echoes of the Columbine massacre in a Colorado high school in 1999, when two students in trench coats killed 13 people in a shooting rampage, before shooting themselves. But for Montreal residents, it also evoked two other college killings in the past 15 years.
In 1992, Valery Fabrikant, a former associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University, killed four of his colleagues.
In 1989, Marc Lepine killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnic before shooting himself. Lepine, 25, roamed the halls of the school firing a rifle, specifically targeting women whom he claimed in a suicide note had ruined his life. Nine other women and four men were wounded.
That shooting sparked calls for gun control, and the federal government later introduced a stringent national firearms registry.
Harper is trying to eliminate the gun registry, saying it is expensive and does not reduce gun use or smuggling by criminals.
Sheldon Chad and Maggie Farley write for the Los Angeles Times.