CINCINNATI -- "The Genius of Water," her arms outstretched, presided Thursday night over a Fountain Square empty of everything but flowers and police tape.
Hours earlier, the city center had been a blur of screaming and sirens and bullet holes punched through glass; in the hours to come, a candlelight vigil might turn it back into the community hub most Cincinnatians recognize. But as Thursday rolled over into Friday, it was dark, hot and silent.
Fifth Third Center, girdled in yellow tape, had become the site of Downtown's first shooting of 2018.
Four people died in a matter of minutes. One was gunman Omar Santa-Perez, whom one witness said strode into the lobby around 9 a.m. and opened fire on innocent people with a 9 mm handgun before responding officers shot and killed him.
The witness, who had been exiting an elevator when he spotted the shooter, jumped back inside and heard bullets strike the elevator door as it closed.
The other three were men who lived and worked nearby. Two more victims survived and were hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center overnight.
The incident left Hoxworth Blood Center requesting donations and the owners of Fifth Third Bank requesting the public's support in the wake of a stunning tragedy.
Here's what we know about the shooting at Fifth Third Center:
1. The shooter was Omar Santa-Perez
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac identified the shooter as 29-year-old Santa-Perez, who had lived in the North Bend area since at least 2015. In a news conference, Isaac suggested "there may be a possibility that there are some mental health issues involved here."
Months before the shooting, Santa-Perez had filed a pair of federal lawsuits against NBC Universal and TD Ameritrade, alleging -- seemingly without any evidence or factual support -- the two companies had conspired to steal his personal information and broadcast it on MSNBC. A magistrate judge who recommended the second suit's dismissal characterized it as "rambling, difficult to decipher and (bordering) on delusional."
Santa-Perez was armed with a Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic handgun; he had over 200 rounds of ammunition stuffed inside a briefcase.
Isaac said he bought the gun legally at Point Blank on the West Side, but Isaac was not sure where Santa-Perez purchased over 200 rounds of ammunition.
Investigators had not yet determined a motive for the attack by Friday afternoon, but authorities started investigating his North Bend home shortly after the shooting Thursday. Neighbors said they were flabbergasted to learn what he had done.
2. Shooter entered lobby through side door
Santa-Perez entered the lobby of the Fifth Third Center through a side door near Potbelly's. Authorities initially thought he first entered the loading dock area, but Isaac clarified in a news conference Friday that he did not enter that area at all.
Santa-Perez fired his first shot at 9:06 a.m. He fired 34 more rounds at bystanders and police officers over the next four minutes and 28 seconds.
No officers were injured.
Here's a timeline of the shooting:
- 9:07 a.m. -- Officer calls in shooting to dispatch
- 9:08 a.m. -- Active shooter on the first floor
- 9:11 a.m. -- Suspect down inside building
- 9:13 a.m. -- Officer reports locations of victims
- 9:13 a.m. -- Officer reports finding survivors in closet
3. Police killed suspect
A Cincinnati police officer shot and killed the gunman, Mayor John Cranley said in a news briefing shortly after the shooting.
Cranley said officers responded "within seconds" of the shooting.
Officer Jennifer Chilton, Officer Antonio Etter, Officer Eric Kaminsky, and Police Specialist Gregory Toyeas engaged in a shootout with Santa Perez.
Authorities fired a total of 11 rounds, Isaac said, but it’s not yet known which police officer struck Santa-Perez.
"It's heartbreaking," Cranley said. "This is not normal, and it shouldn't be viewed as normal. This is abnormal. No other industrialized country has this level of active multiple shooting on a regular basis … I think there's something deeply sick at work here, and we as a country have got to deal with it."
4. The shooter killed three men before police killed him
Richard Newcomer, an employee of Gilbane Building Company in Rhode Island, was the first publicly identified after his death. Newcomer, 64, had been assigned to a project on the third floor of the Fifth Third Center.
Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco identified the other two as 25-year-old Prudhi Raj Kandepi and 48-year-old Luis Felipe Calderón.
One of the surviving victims was in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Friday night; the other victim, Whitney Austin, was in fair condition.
5. Whitney Austin, one of the surviving victims, is a Fifth Third Bank vice president
Fifth Third Bank's vice presidentand digital product lending manager was shot 12 times in Thursday's Downtown shooting, her husband said.
Whitney Austin is now undergoing surgery at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Her husband, Waller Austin, said he is hopeful she will make a full recovery.
"We are not emotionally ready for interviews yet," Waller Austin said, "but Whitney will have many points that she would like to address once she is able to distance herself from the immediate trauma of (Thursday's) incident."
6. Shooter is not former or current employee of Fifth Third Bank
Lt. Steve Saunders said Santa-Perez was not a former or current employee of Fifth Third Bank.
Hamilton County deputies started searching the home where they believe the Fifth Third Center shooter lived Thursday afternoon, according to Lt. Dave Daugherty.
Authorities taped off several buildings on Miami Avenue near Brower Road in North Bend.
7. People nearby hid, feared for their lives
Janetta Cook said she heard gunshots that "never stopped" as she was working at Servatti on Fountain Square. She locked the doors and barricaded herself in the shop's bathroom with her co-worker, Michele Parks.
Cook thought about her son at home as she hunkered down in the bathroom, afraid the shooter would find her.
"We were really, really close, and all that was going through my mind was, ‘They coming, they're coming for us,'" Cook said. "The shots got closer, and closer, and closer, and closer, and that's all you can think about is, ‘I'm next, I'm next, I'm next.'"
Parks said the gunshots sounded so close as if they were coming through the walls of the store.
"There was nowhere we could go," Parks said. "The only thing we could do was to protect each other, go in the bathroom and pray everything was OK."
8. Video shows security guard shield bystander, gunman shooting aimlessly
Cincinnati police released body camera and security camera video Friday that shows Santa-Perez wreak havoc inside the building.
He paced through the Fifth Third Center with his gun drawn, shooting at anyone in sight. A briefcase was strapped across the front of his body.
Surveillance footage from inside the building shows a man who appeared to have fallen to the ground. An unarmed security guard picks the man up, shields him with his body and gets him into hiding. Milliseconds later, Santa-Perez comes tearing through that exact area, shooting through the glass because he did not see them.
Something I wanna point out: This unarmed security guard shielded a man with his body and got him into hiding. MILLISECONDS later, the gunman walks by and shoots through the glass because he didn't see them. That security guard saved that man's life https://t.co/ubXobzCjHg @WCPO pic.twitter.com/X5LDGw4u7w
— Abby Anstead (@AbbyAnstead) September 7, 2018
Cincinnati police officers shot Santa-Perez from outside through the glass facade of the building.
9. Cincinnati Public Schools students were inside the building
Seven members of a Cincinnati Public Schools program who were working in the Fifth Third Center are safe, a CPS official said.
The students went into lockdown along with their instructors once word of the shooting spread, according to Lauren Worley, a CPS spokesperson.
The program, called Project SEARCH, provides internships for students over 18 with special needs, Worley said.
The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a one-year educational program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school, according to its website. It is targeted for students whose main goal is competitive employment.
10. Police chief: Protocol followed in terms of lockdown
Isaac said it appears officials at Fifth Third Bank properly responded with lockdown procedures.
"These are things we see happening across the country, and we all have to be vigilant and prepared to deal with these situations," Isaac said.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials were on scene to sweep the building, ATF spokesperson Suzanne Dabkowski said.
Isaac said investigators will conduct interviews, process the crime scene and review security and body camera footage in the coming days.
Fountain Square was closed to foot traffic Thursday, and all events were canceled. Federal Bureau of Investigations agents were on scene, and SWAT cleared the building.
11. Gov. Kasich grieves for victims
Ohio Gov. John Kasich praised Cincinnati police for their quick action in stopping the shooter and shared his personal grief over the deaths of the three victims.
"It's just a terrible, terrible situation," Kasich told WCPO by phone from New York Thursday morning. "The law enforcement in Cincinnati did a fantastic job in responding. I talked to the mayor. All of the folks in my public safety department have been in touch with the officials in Cincinnati" to offer support.
Kasich, who lost his parents suddenly in a tragic traffic accident in 1987, grieved along with the victims' families.
"It's just terrible. I'm in a meeting in New York with a ratings agency about the strength of our state and I just walked in and said, ‘Hug the ones you love' because you just never know. You just never know what's going to happen in this world today," Kasich said.
"I couldn't even imagine the calls that have to go out to the loved ones saying, ‘Here's what happened.' When that phone rings, you put yourself in their shoes. It's just a black, black dark hole.
"So we grieve for the loss of life. We also want to stand with those who were injured and their families. What can you say? It's just a terrible, terrible situation."
Other officials offered statements amid the tragedy.
12. First shooting Downtown in 2018
The shooting was the first to happen Downtown in 2018, according to city data.
The last fatal shooting reported in the Central Business District involved a single victim and occurred on July 7, 2014, according to the city's open data portal. The shooting took place on 8th Street and Garfield Place right outside the main branch of the Cincinnati library.
The map below displays shootings in the Central Business District since January 2014.
- Everything we know about the shooting
- What we know about the gunman
- What we know about the victims
- Mayor: Officers at shooting ran into a gun fight
- Witness: 'He was 4 meters away from me, shooting'
- Timeline: How the shooting unfolded
- Could Downtown shooting launch a PR crisis?
- See our editorial cartoon
- View images from the scene