Gunman opened fire with a pistol in a medical center waiting room, shot five people, then fled on foot.
US police have arrested a suspect in a mass shooting at a medical center that killed one person and injured four, after which the gunman stole a truck and fled the scene.
The suspect, identified as Deion Patterson, 24, was taken into custody without incident Wednesday after an undercover officer spotted him hours after the afternoon admission at the Northside Medical facility in the Georgia capital, north of Atlanta.
The motive for the shooting and whether the suspect knew any of his victims or was the target has yet to be determined.
“We know he had an appointment at the facility, but why he did what he did — all of that is under investigation,” Charles Hampton, deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said at a news conference.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told an earlier news conference that it was too early in the investigation to determine whether the five women shot were patients or employees.
The woman who died was 39. The four injured women ranged in age from 25 to 71, local media reported.
Three victims were in critical condition and underwent surgery. Schierbaum described them as “fighting for their lives”.
Hampton said the gunman opened fire with a handgun and was only at the medical center for about two minutes, then fled on foot and made his way to a nearby gas station, where he claimed a pickup truck that had been left unattended and drove off.
Police analyzed a barrage of CCTV footage and phone tips from the public to finally pinpoint the suspect’s location, Cobb County Police Chief Stuart VanHoozer said.
The gunman arrived at the medical center with his mother, Schierbaum said, but she was not injured. Police said she and other family members were cooperating with investigators.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens condemned the shooting as the latest act of carnage in what has become “a national epidemic of gun violence,” turning schools, workplaces, churches and doctors’ offices into potential killing zones.
He said active shooter drills have become so common that a company in the Cobb County area where Patterson was arrested happened to be conducting such a drill when police approached the suspect nearby.
‘Those families, those families’
Patterson’s mother, Minyone Patterson, told the Associated Press news agency that her son, a former Coast Guardsman, had “some mental instability” from medication he received from the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system that he began taking on Friday.
She said her son had wanted the drug Ativan to treat anxiety and depression, but the VA wouldn’t give it to him, saying it would be “too addictive.”
“Those families, those families,” she said of the victims’ relatives as she began to sob. “They hurt because they wouldn’t give my son his damn Ativan. Those families lost their loved ones because he had a mental breakdown because they wouldn’t listen to me.”
Veterans Affairs Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said he was unable to discuss the matter.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the active shooting situation in Atlanta today. Due to patient privacy, we cannot discuss the veteran’s personal information without written consent,” Hayes said in a statement.
US Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia later took to the Senate floor to denounce gun violence and urge his colleagues to push forward gun reform.
“There have been so many mass shootings… that, tragically, we act like this is routine,” he said. “We act like this is normal. It is not normal.”