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Delaware court shooting: 2 killed, 2 wounded at New Castle County Courthouse; shooter also dead

12:22 PM, Feb 11, 2013   |    comments
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WILMINGTON (Delawareonline.com) - Two women were shot to death when a gunman opened fire at the New Castle County Courthouse this morning, state police said. The shooter is dead, and two male Capitol Police officers were wounded.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack said the situation in the courthouse is "dynamic." Police are going through the courthouse room by room just to make sure there are no other issues, Shavack said. People who were already in the courthouse are being held in place as they do the security sweep, Shavack said.

It was unclear whether the shooter was killed by Capitol Police officers or he took his own life, according to state police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack. The shooter was in his late 20s to early 30s Police are still trying to determine his identity and the identities of the victims.

According to the Associated Press, Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said he was told the man shot and killed his wife and wounded two other people. Williams says the couple was estranged, the AP said.

Ralph Hilton got a call this morning from his sister, Victoria Warren. His sister was in the courthouse for jury duty.

"They were shooting, they were shooting," is what Hilton heard his sister say.

Hilton said his sister was calling from a room she hiding in. Because people are not allowed to take their cellphones in, she was calling him from a land line. But when the phone went dead he drove from his office and was on King street awaiting word from her.

"She sounded upset," he said.

The shooting began around 8 a.m. when the gunman was stopped by Capitol Police at a security checkpoint inside the front door.

Ferris Wharton, a public defender and former chief deputy attorney general, said an employee of his office reported that he saw a woman who appeared to be dead in the lobby. The employee also saw bullet holes in the window by the revolving door of the courthouse that is adjacent to the parking garage. Shell casings littered the ground, the employee said, according to Wharton.

"I don't know what to say,'' said Wharton, who has worked in the Wilmington courthouses for three decades. "I've never heard of anything like this happening in Delaware. It's a wild situation.''

Sandra Autman, deputy New Castle County prothonotary, says she and several other "hysterical staff" were holed up in their mezzanine office, one level below the lobby. She said employees heard at least five shots.

Dozens of police cars are in the area, and streets are cordoned off for several blocks around the courthouse. Multiple ambulances and firetrucks also are on the scene.

Police have closed King Street at Ninth.

Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning, attending a roundtable on gun violence with Vice President Joe Biden and other law enforcement officials in Philadelphia, declined comment on the shooting and deferred to officials on the scene in Wilmington.

Photographer William Bretzger and reporter Jonathan Starkey contributed to this report.

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