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1 dead in Phoenix office shooting; shooter at large

5:04 PM, Jan 30, 2013   |    comments
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By Jane Lednovich and JJ Hensley
The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX - One of three people shot Wednesday morning at a north-central Phoenix office building is dead, officials said, and police continue to search for the gunman.

Police identified the suspect as 70-year-old Arthur Douglas Harmon. They said his motive is unclear.

Harmon fled the scene in a white vehicle and fired shots at a witness who was giving chase, police said.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said officers are now searching for Harmon's 2013 Kia Optima, license plate AVS 2052. He added that Harmon is considered armed and dangerous.

Steven D. Singer, 48, the CEO of Fusion Contact Centers, a Scottsdale call center, was killed. He had been attending a mediation in a law firm at the office building.

Mark Hummels, a partner with Osborn Maledon and president of the Phoenix chapter of the Federal Bar Association, had surgery Wednesday afternoon and is among the survivors, said Larry Hammond, a partner with the firm. Hummels was shot in the neck and lower back.

He was wounded after leaving a mediation session, according to an email from Andrea Marconi, a lawyer with Fennemore Craig and president-elect of the Federal Bar Association.

"The latest information I have is that Mark has a strong pulse after surgery and the doctors are optimistic about his recovery, so this is encouraging news," she wrote in the e-mail to members of the Phoenix legal community and obtained by The Arizona Republic.

A third shooting victim has less severe injuries and is expected to survive, Thompson said. Three others also were transported to area hospitals, but the nature of their injuries was not detailed.

Sgt. Steve Martos said officers are looking at several possible motives.

Officers had surrounded Harmon's house in the 14000 block of North 28th Street shortly after the 10:30 a.m. MST shooting but waited to enter because the suspect's son refused to let officers in without a search warrant. SWAT officers entered the home about 3:45 after a warrant was issued but Martos said the house was empty.

"This doesn't appear to be a random type of incident," Thompson said. At about 10:30 a.m. MST, the gunman arrived at the office building and got into a dispute that escalated to the point where he drew a gun.

The shooting took place on the same day that Congress convened hearings in Washington on legislation to address gun violence. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was severely wounded along with 18 others two years ago outside a supermarket in suburban Tucson, Ariz., was among those testifying. Six died in that shooting.

In Phoenix, witnesses who worked in the three-story office complex in the 7310 block of 16th Street where the shooting occurred characterized the office building as usually very quiet.

"I heard the shots and that's it," said Karen Frasier, a receptionist at Stearns Lending in the same complex. "I wouldn't know a gunshot if it jumped up and bit me because I'd never heard one. But some other people heard them and said that's what they were."

The gunfire prompted terrified workers throughout the complex that houses 10 to 15 businesses including insurance, health care and law offices, to lock their doors and hide far from windows. SWAT team officers searched the building.

"Everyone was just scared, honestly, just scared," said Navika Sood, assistant director of nursing at First at Home Health Services who, along with her co-workers, locked the entrances to their office.

Becky Neher, who works for a title company in the building, said the two gunshots she heard sounded like two pieces of metal banging against each other.

"Someone yelled, 'We have a shooter,'" she said. She saw two victims lying on the ground outside the back side of the building.

Rob Hayter, who works at Pioneer Title Agency, said he heard five or six shots before calling 911, looked out his office window and saw two bodies lying on the ground.

"It was a little tense. Everybody came and hid in the IT room," Hayter said.

A spokeswoman for the Albuquerque-based owner of the building, Louis Abruzzo of Alvardao Realty, said the shooting happened in the lobby. The 92,000-square-foot, three-story office building is more than 85% leased.

STORY: Giffords, NRA chief speak out at Senate gun hearing

Abruzzo paid $10.2 million in cash for the office building in December 2011.

According to Larry Ruch, who operates out of a law office across the street, 50 police cars, seven to eight fire trucks and K-9 units converged at the location. It appeared to him that four people were taken out on stretchers; scores of onlookers took to balconies of nearby buildings to watch the scene unfold.

The area, just north of the Arizona Canal is dotted by small office complexes on both sides of the six-lane street.

In Washington, former astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, told the Senate panel about the Wednesday shooting during his time at the microphone: "There is another what seems to be possibly a shooting with multiple victims ... with multiple shots fired."

Contributing: Amy B Wang, Lindsey Collom, Catherine Reagor and The Associated Press

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