WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) – Three people were killed, including the suspected gunman, after a gunfight erupted inside the lobby of the New Castle County Courthouse Monday morning. Two Capitol police officers were wounded during the shootout.
The shooting happened at about 8 a.m. Monday at the Courthouse building in the 500 block of N. King Street.
According to investigators, the alleged gunman, approximately 50-60 years of age, entered the lobby of the courthouse, pulled out a gun and opened fire — targeting his victim.
VIEW: Images From The Scene
According to police, a woman and a second unidentified female were shot and killed by the gunman. Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams says the suspected gunman was then killed.
One of the victims has been identified as 39-year-old Christine Belford of Newark, Delaware (see related story).
Two Capitol police officers were wounded during the shootout and were taken to Christiana Hospital with non-life threatening injuries where they were treated and released.
Authorities believe the gunman acted alone, but they searched all 12 floors of the courthouse as a part of the investigation. Although the motive for the shooting remains under investigation, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said during an afternoon news conference that it was not a random act and according to preliminary information, appears to have been the result of a custody dispute that has lasted in the courts for several years.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who is currently out of the country, released the following statement regarding the deadly Courthouse shooting:
“First, I want to express my deepest condolences to the victims of this shooting. Second, I want to express my appreciation to all of those from the law enforcement community who have been working so hard today. A short while ago, I spoke with each of the Capitol Police officers who were shot. I thank God that they are both doing OK. I let them know how grateful we are for that and how much we appreciate their outstanding service to the citizens of our state. I have also spoken today with Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Schiliro, State Police Superintendent McQueen, and Capitol Police Chief Jopp. I am grateful to them and their personnel for all they are doing. While this shooting is notable for the fact that it took place inside a state courthouse, there are some aspects of this incident that are, unfortunately, all too common. I am saddened that two more brave members of our law enforcement community have been injured in the line of duty. I am also saddened that this appears to be another example of a domestic situation that turned deadly. So while there is much focus on this incident today because of the circumstances, it should not detract from our focus on domestic violence or from our appreciation and apprehension for the thousands of men and women in law enforcement who take chances on our behalf every day.”
Police are urging any eyewitnesses to the shooting to call: 302-834-2620 Ext 0.
Police also say that anyone who witnessed the events and needs counseling can call the Delaware State Police Victim Center at 1-800 VICTIM1 or 1-800-842-8461. Counselors will be available on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Goodstay Center of the University of Delaware located at 2600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilmington.
While the investigation continues, the New Castle County Courthouse will remain closed Tuesday.
Chief Justice Myron T. Steele released a statement that read in part:
“The violence today has saddened and horrified all of us. I know I can speak for our entire judiciary in thanking the Capitol Police for risking their lives to protect as many of our citizens and employees as they could. Right now, the interests of justice require that we allow law enforcement and the Department of Justice to do their jobs and to have complete control and access to the Courthouse tomorrow. We also want to make sure that the needs of our employees, jurors and witnesses who were present in the Courthouse are met.”