As many as seven people were dead after a shooting rampage today at the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in Washington, a Defense Department official said.
One gunman was killed at the scene of the shooting this morning, while police searched for two other men -- both seen in military-style garb -- who may have been involved, Washington Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters at a briefing. Four others were wounded, including a Washington police officer who was in critical condition.
"We will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible," President Barack Obama said before a speech on the fifth anniversary of Wall Street’s financial crisis.
"We are going to be investigating thoroughly what happened -- as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened -- and do everything that we can to try to prevent them," Obama said.
Police have yet to release an official count of the number of those killed. The Defense Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said as many as seven were dead -- and that the toll could go higher.
The shooting, around 8:15 a.m. about a mile from the U.S. Capitol, shuttered streets near the Navy Yard and prompted lockdowns of eight schools nearby. Helicopters circled overhead, and Mayor Vincent Gray advised residents to stay away from the area.
One of those injured by a gunman was a Washington police officer who responded to the incident. "We’ve obviously had a horrific tragedy," Gray told reporters. Gray said at least four people were wounded.
Navy Commander Tim Jirus said he was in his fourth-floor office when the fire alarm went off and he fled to an alley outside. He stopped to speak with another man, whom he didn’t know, when he heard what sounded like gun shots. He saw the man shot in the head.
"To hear the gun shots and realize you were that close makes me a little unnerved," Jirus, who works for Naval Sea Systems Command, told reporters outside the Navy Yard. "It makes me like life a lot today. I’m going to hug my kids the next time I see them.
Patricia Ward, a logistics manager at the Navy Yard, said she was in a cafeteria when she heard at least seven gunshots -- three followed by a pause and then four more -- from upper stories of the building. She fled along with others, when she saw a security guard with a gun drawn who advised them to run.
‘‘The ones that were in the cafeteria with us, we all just looked at each other. At first they said let’s just stay here in the cafeteria. I said no, I’m getting out. So everybody just started running out the side door."
Streets around the Navy Yard, in southeast Washington, remained closed as police searched for the other potential shooters. Police cars, tactical vehicles and emergency responders raced along M Street Southeast, with sirens blaring.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, a spokesman for the Navy, said the buildings at the yard remain locked down.
"This is an active search scene," Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. "This isn’t over for law enforcement or for our people over there."
Three of the wounded were taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where they were in critical condition.
Janis Orlowski, the hospital’s chief operating officer, told reporters that the victims were awake, but so far unable to discuss the incident. The police officer, who was among the three treated at the hospital, suffered wounds to the leg, while two women were shot in the shoulder, head and hand.
"Obviously, they’re in pain and distressed," she said.
The shooting shut down streets around southeast Washington as police rushed to the scene, and lack of official word led to conflicting news accounts throughout the morning about the number of those hurt or shooters involved.
The incident briefly grounded flights out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Obama was briefed several times this morning about the Navy Yard shooting by his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, according to a White House official, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.
The U.S. Capitol Police said they are assisting in the investigation of the shooting, which occurred at about 8:20 a.m. Washington time.
The Washington Navy Yard, located along the Anacostia River, was created in 1799 and is the oldest military installation in the U.S., according to the U.S. Navy. It is home to several Navy offices and commands, including the Navy Museum. The Naval Sea Systems Command oversees the service’s $30 billion annual budget for developing ships, submarines and their combat systems.