Multiple shootings in Quantico reported back-to-back Thursday night
The fatal shootings at the United States Marine Corps Base in Quantico on Thursday night that left two active duty Marines and the suspected Marine gunman dead came less than an hour of a separate second suspected shooting within the Town of Quantico's borders.
Base commander Colonel David Maxwell said on Friday at a press conference that an active-duty male Marine "was pronounced dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound by law enforcement at the scene," according to a transcript of the press conference provided by the Marine Corps.
"Two other victims, a male and female, both active-duty Marines, were pronounced dead at the scene," added Maxwell. "The three Marines involved in this incident were all permanent personnel assigned to Officer Candidates School."
He mentioned that school candidates and other OCS personnel "are accounted for as well."
Maxwell did not release the names of the deceased pending the 24-hour notification of the next of kin.
The first call to 9-1-1 came in at 10:30 p.m. Thursday with authorities arriving within five minutes of notification, according to Maxwell.
By 11 p.m. "Quantico's security had been heightened and mass notification via the giant voice mass notification system began to pass instruction to base residents and employees," said Maxwell, later noting that restrictions were lifted 3.5 hours later "and the base returned to normal operations."
After the mass notification went out, a separate incident occurred between 11:38 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. within the borders of the Town of Quantico, which is a separate jurisdiction from the Marine Corps Base though it is entirely surrounded by the base.
Prince William County police officer John Clair, who is the incoming chief of police for the Town of Quantico, said he is "100 percent" confident that the sounds he heard came from a gun.
Clair officially begins his job as the town's lone full-time police officer on March 25, following the town council's March 14 appointment of him to the vacant position. He happened to be in town while off the clock handling "administrative things" on Thursday night when he heard what he described as gunshots coming from somewhere around Third Avenue.
"I heard something like three to four shots and I responded to the general area and notified the Prince William Police Department of the incident," said Clair, adding that "several other residents" called the station too.
Acting in his role as an off-duty county police officer carrying a privately-owned gun, Clair mentioned that he took cover in an area where he could "see the general area" from where he heard the shots and held his position until four county units arrived on the scene.
"He ran off in the direction of the shots," said Quantico Mayor Kevin Brown, who happened to be with Clair when they both heard the sound of shots down the street.
"It was quiet down there" until then, said Clair.
As of Friday evening, police had no suspect after searching the area.
"At this point, short of someone coming forward with some very verifiable information, we're at dead end until then," said Clair.
Brown said the incident within the town's borders "was cleared" around 1:30 a.m. without any confirmation about there being an actual shooting or a "copycat" shooter terrorizing the town.
"We really have no idea," said Brown, adding, "I heard it myself" when the shots rang out.
For the mayor, who took over his position on July 1, the timing of the two events is suspicious.
"It's a little too coincidental to not have some sort" of connection, he said.
About 500 people live within the town of Quantico itself, a 44-acre locality that spans four streets wide by four streets long.
No other town in the United States is completely surrounded by a USMC base.
"It's tight-knit for sure," said Brown, adding that "word travels fast" when a major incident occurs within the town's borders.
In Richmond, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) received word about on Friday morning after administration officials "received a situation report very early this morning," according to McDonnell spokesperson Jeff Caldwell.
He mentioned that McDonnell spoke with some "military folks" following the slaying but added that the state government is not playing a primary or supporting role in the investigation because it happened on federal property at the United States Marine Corps base.
"We have offered our support to the base but this investigation is being handled by military authorities," said Caldwell during a phone interview.
A statement from the office of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) described the base shootings as an "apparent murder-suicide."