The gunfire started sometime around 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.
Within an hour, a Navy sailor was dead at Fort Detrick, two others critically injured nearby, and Frederick was awash with law enforcement, media trucks and unanswered questions.
Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet, a 38-year-old Navy Hospital Corpsman stationed at Fort Detrick, reportedly shot two naval sailors with a rifle in the 8400 block of Progress Drive around 8:20 a.m. The men were working inside a warehouse rented by the Naval Medical Research Center, Biological Defense Research Directorate, used for storage, according to the Frederick Police Department.
The men shot by Woldesenbet were also stationed at Fort Detrick. Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando said they were flown to the shock trauma center in critical condition. One man was in critical but stable condition as of Tuesday evening.
Woldesenbet, of the 100 block of Willowdale Drive in Frederick, reportedly drove to Fort Detrick immediately after the shooting.
Michael Talley, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick, said Woldesenbet was briefly stopped by officials at the Nallin Farm Gate, before he quickly drove through. It took about four minutes for the military base’s civilian police force to track him down, according to Talley. Woldesenbet reportedly stepped outside his vehicle about a half mile from the gate, displayed a gun and was then shot.
Lando said life-saving attempts on the shooter were unsuccessful.
Speaking before more than a dozen reporters near where the first shooting occurred in Riverside Tech Park, Talley said it was perhaps fortunate the incident was not more severe.
“The collaboration and synchronization with which they operated, certainly was done [by the] textbook,” Talley said. “And certainly, ultimately, probably prevented further injury and loss.”
It was unclear Tuesday night why Woldesenbet shot the men or drove to Fort Detrick afterward.
“I respect what you’re getting at,” Lando said in response to a question about whether Woldesenbet knew the victims. “Probably what you don’t see is 50 detectives trying to figure all that information out. So for me to even speculate on that would be inappropriate.”
Frederick Police Lt. Andrew Alcorn said the FBI is leading the investigation at Fort Detrick, and city police are in charge of the investigation at Riverside Tech Park. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Naval Criminal Investigative Service are also investigating, he said. Additionally, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police and Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services joined in the response.
“We’re still trying to sort through stacks of paper just trying to figure out what exactly the motive would be,” Alcorn said, regarding Woldesenbet driving to the military base.
After the shooting at Riverside Tech Park, one of the victims was aided by employees at a nearby business.
Jeremy Mutschler, director of marketing and advertising for Nicolock Paving Stones & Retaining Walls, said two or three employees saw one of the victims enter the Nicolock warehouse around 8:30 a.m., across the street from where the shooting occurred.
The employees, including a former member of the military, quickly tended to the victim, Mutschler said. They rapidly secured the building, he said.
The employees said the victim was shot in the upper chest or neck area, and there was a “significant amount of blood,” according to Mutschler.
Chief Lando said shootings like the what happened Tuesday were occurring more often across the country, but thanked his colleagues and fellow law enforcement agencies for acting swiftly and being prepared.
Lando, who has been police chief in Frederick for less than a month, said the shooting was “tragic.”
“Every time you turn on the TV, we’re seeing something like this happen,” Lando said. “And now it’s happening in our backyard.”
Previous training by Fort Detrick and local law enforcement for similar incidents likely made a huge difference, Talley said.
Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor agreed with Lando and Talley that previous training helped prevent the situation from turning out worse.
“You have to believe the quick action from our police chief and the general, what was done here, putting the alert out, what happened at Fort Detrick, it could always be worse,” O’Connor said of Tuesday’s shootings. “I think it wasn’t [worse] because a lot of people did their jobs today.”
— News editor Trevor Baratko contributed to this report.
Update: April 7, 11:56 a.m.
One victim was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Navy said in a tweet. The Navy plans to send a special psychiatric rapid intervention team to provide mental health support to the Fort Detrick community.
Clarification and correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Michael Talley as the Fort Detrick commanding general. His official title is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick. Additionally, a previous headline referred to the shooter as a Navy medic. He was a Navy lab tech.