The accused gunman in the deadly workplace shooting at a small manufacturing plant in western Maryland on Thursday carried out his normal work shift in the hours before the shooting, authorities said Friday.
Three men died and another was wounded when the suspect opened fire on them at Columbia Machine, Inc. on Bikle Road in Smithsburg, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said.
The 23-year-old gunman, Joe Louis Esquivel of Hedgesville, West Virginia, showed up for his typical work shift and worked throughout the day, the sheriff's office said. Just before 2:30 p.m., authorities say he left the building, grabbed a gun out of his car and then went back in and shot the men in the breakroom.
Mark Alan Frey, 50, Charles Edward Minnick, 31, and Joshua Robert Wallace, 30, all died. A 42-year-old man was critically injured and remains hospitalized. They were all employees at Columbia Machine, Inc., the sheriff's office said.
“It was quickly discovered that the suspect had fled the scene prior to law enforcement arrival, and units relayed the information as far as the suspect vehicle description,” Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.
A short time after the shooting, about five or so miles south of the plant, a Maryland state trooper got into a shootout with the suspect on Mapleville Road, the sheriff's office said.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
“They were telling him that he needed to his put hands up, that he was under arrest,” said Harleigh Routzahn, who said she saw the suspect plow into a police car. “They probably said that like 15 times. He shot at the state trooper and grazed him, and that’s when all the cops started letting off fire.”
She said she heard 15-20 shots.
“When the troopers went to stop the vehicle, the suspect immediately started firing multiple rounds at the troopers,” Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Bill Dofflemyer said.
The trooper suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injures. The trooper has been treated and released. They have worked with Maryland State Police for 25 years, officials said.
Esquivel was also injured and taken to a hospital. He is facing 25 charges, including three counts of first-degree murder, and is being held without bond.
He used a semi-automatic handgun to carry out the attack, according to the sheriff's office. His motive for the shooting is still unclear.
Esquivel’s mother told News4 the last she heard he was still in the hospital. She has not spoken to her since the shooting and has no idea what motivated him.
Chopper4 video of the aftermath of the second crime scene shows a red four-door car pinned in by a burgundy SUV on Mapleville Road, near the Mt. Aetna traffic circle. On the ground outside the driver's side door of the red car, police put an evidence marker next to a gun.
Smithsburg is in a remote area near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border a few miles from Hagerstown, Maryland, and about 75 miles west of Baltimore.
“This stuff is not normal around my hometown,” Routzahn said tearfully. “It’s not. Like, my neighbors’ kids were out front. They could have been shot.”
“This is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Maryland Sen. Paul Corderman said. “Completely heinous and unacceptable.”
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is handling the original scene, and Maryland State Police is handling the second scene.
"We are working closely with local authorities, while the investigation continues," Columbia Machine, Inc. CEO Rick Goode said in a statement. "Our highest priority during this tragic event is the safety and wellbeing of our employees and their families.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those that lost family members or were affected by this tragic event."
“I’m devastated by the lives taken today in Smithsburg and for the pain and suffering their loved ones are experiencing," U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement.
"As we learn more about the shooting today, my thoughts are with the employees of Columbia Machine, the Smithsburg community, and all of those grieving," he added. "I am committed to meeting your pain with action."
There have been more than 250 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the group Gun Violence Archives, which collects data from thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country and counts as a mass shooting an incident with four or more victims.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.