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Two Navy sailors injured in Frederick shooting; gunman shot and killed at Maryland military base, officials say

A Navy medic opened fire Tuesday morning at a Frederick business park, critically injuring two men before fleeing to a nearby military base where authorities shot him dead, officials said.

The two victims, both Navy sailors assigned to the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick nearby, were flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where one man remains in critical condition , Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando said. The other man was treated and released Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Navy said in a tweet.

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet shot the two men at “a military institution” at the Riverside Tech Park, on the outskirts of the city of about 72,000 people, Lando said.

After the shooting, Woldesenbet fled in his vehicle to Fort Detrick, where he also was assigned, and was eventually stopped and shot dead by military police after brandishing a firearm, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, the commander of the Army base.

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Authorities had not identified a motive yet Tuesday. It was still unclear, they said, whether the incident was a targeted attack.

But nobody else was injured and the law enforcement officials assured any threat to the community had been mitigated; police had confirmed Woldesenbet, 38, was the lone subject, Lando said.

This latest shooting, at a nondescript industrial park populated by warehouses and offices, opened a fresh wound for a country still reeling from recent mass casualty events in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, but that also remembers massacres at a high school in Columbine, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Americans are sick of breaking news alerts about deaths from gun violence,” said U.S. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland whose district encompasses Frederick, in a statement. “Today, the Frederick community, including thousands of military personnel serving at Ft. Detrick, experienced the terrifying feeling of checking in on friends and family following news that gun violence had broken out in their community.”

The authorities at the scene also acknowledged the relentless pace of gun violence, with Talley saying the proliferation of “active shooter” events had prompted his security forces to begin a fresh curriculum for how to handle them.

Meanwhile, Lando said it was unfortunate that law enforcement had grown so familiar with responding to these violent incidents.

“Every time we turn on the news, something like this is happening,” Lando said at a news conference outside a Royal Farms store near the scene of the shooting. “Today it happened in Frederick; a week or so ago it happened in Boulder. ... We always hope that we don’t get that call, but today we got that call.”

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, the commander of the U.S. Army base Fort Detrick, is flanked by Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando at a news conference Tuesday afternoon following a shooting at Riverside Tech Park in Frederick.
Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, the commander of the U.S. Army base Fort Detrick, is flanked by Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando at a news conference Tuesday afternoon following a shooting at Riverside Tech Park in Frederick. (Alex Mann/Baltimore Sun)

Woldesenbet used a rifle in the shooting, though officials couldn’t say what type of long gun or identify the weapon’s caliber. Talley said it was not likely Woldesenbet’s service weapon.

Detectives with the Frederick Police Department are in charge of the scene at the business park, while the FBI is leading the investigation on the military base. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service also is involved.

Talley said the gunman’s work did not fall under his purview as commander of Fort Detrick, which is home to the military’s flagship biological defense laboratory and several federal civilian biodefense labs. Rather, Woldesenbet worked in an “overflow area for Naval work,” he said.

About 10,000 military personnel and civilians work on the base, which encompasses about 1,300 acres.

Police officers responded around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to reports of an active shooter in the 8400 block of Progress Drive. When Woldesenbet entered the facility, people fled, Lando said.

The police chief couldn’t say how many others were present during the shooting, while Talley declined to say what the office was used for.

Around 8:45 a.m., Woldesenbet arrived in his personal vehicle at Fort Detrick, Talley said. Working off a be-on-the-lookout report issued by Frederick police, security stopped Woldesenbet’s vehicle at the gate but “before he was able to be searched, he sped past the gate, made it about half a mile into the installation.”

There, the Fort Detrick police stopped him in a parking lot, at which point he brandished a weapon and the military police “were able to neutralize” him, Talley said. Woldesenbet was pronounced dead after emergency medical services tried to save his life for about 20 minutes, officials said.

Frederick police’s lead investigator, Lt. Andrew Alcorn, said his team of about 50 detectives was poring over “stacks of paper trying to figure out exactly what the motive might be.” At some point during the day, investigators arrived at an address in the 100 block of Willowdale Drive, Woldesenbet’s residence.

Talley added that investigators would look into Woldesenbet’s “disposition” and “mental state.”

About 30 schools in the area were placed on lockdown around 8:30 a.m. “out of an abundance of caution” because of police activity in the area, the school system said in an announcement posted on its website. The lockdown was lifted at 8:54 a.m. and “all students and staff are safe.”

Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor acknowledged the shocking start to the warm spring Tuesday as cherry blossoms bloomed across his city. He touted law enforcement collaboration and offered the city’s support to the victims.

“I just want to send the city’s wishes to the families of the victims in the hopes of quick recoveries,” he said.

Later in the day, Lando said, the victims’ families had joined them at the hospital.

Speaking at a vaccine equity event in Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan said he had been in touch with Maryland State Police, which was assisting Frederick’s police department and county sheriff’s office.

“Our heart goes out to the victims and their families,” said Hogan, a Republican. “We’re praying for them. These kinds of things seem to happen far too often. It’s always tragic but particularly when it hits so close to home. We’re just waiting to see more details into what the motivation was and how this took place.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker, Hallie Miller, McKenna Oxenden and Phillip Jackson, Baltimore Sun Media reporter Heather Mongilio and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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