Fire alarms blared, and officers had a hard time hearing one another. A voice came on the overhead speaker telling workers to seek shelter — and later, to head for the gates at the complex. A U.S. Park Police helicopter flew overhead, plucking a wounded woman from the roof with a rescue basket while a crew member armed with a rifle provided cover.
"We have a report on the fourth floor, a male with a shotgun, multiple shots fired, multiple people down. We're still waiting for the OK that the scene has been secured," an ambulance crew member says on emergency transmissions posted on Broadcastify.com, a source of live public safety audio feeds.
More dispatches followed: Shooter known to be in the main gate area. Officer down on the third floor. Female on the roof, shot in the shoulder.
Once inside, Alexis picked a handgun off an officer and, armed with two weapons, terrorized the building's occupants.
He fired relentlessly not only at police who engaged him but at the workers inside: a 61-year-old marine engineer and grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. years ago from India, a Navy veteran and avid pilot who had once been stationed at Pearl Harbor, a die-hard Washington Redskins fan known for generous bear hugs. A Washington police officer was shot multiple times in the legs but survived.
"We just started running," said Patricia Ward, who was in the cafeteria when the shooting began. She said she heard three gunshots in a row, followed by several more.
Descriptions from witnesses and police paint a portrait of harrowing gun battles inside — all for more than half an hour. The FBI, which launched a nationwide active shooter training program for local law enforcement after last December's Connecticut elementary school massacre, says the average mass shooting is over within minutes and often ends once police arrive.