The shooter who injured four people and sent panic through a Washington, DC, neighborhood Friday was perched on a "sniper-type setup" on a fifth-floor window as he shot dozens of rounds into the street, officials said.
Little was known about the suspect or his motives as of Saturday, but Metropolitan Police officials on Friday said they were inspecting the shooter's online presence in search of clues about what prompted the attack, including a short video that circulated online that appeared to have been recorded from the angle of the man as he was shooting from an elevated window while unsuspecting victims scrambled on the ground for cover.
"Evil reared its ugly head in our community," DC Police Chief Robert Contee said during a press conference Friday. "This person was just shooting randomly at anyone who was out there."
The shooting prompted a lockdown of the nearby Edmund Burke School as well as the University of the District of Columbia, which urged students to shelter in place for hours. SWAT officers and helicopters descended on the busy neighborhood, which is also surrounded by multiple embassies.
Four people were shot in the attack, authorities said, including a 54-year-old man, a woman in her 30s, and a 12-year-old girl. The three were taken to a nearby hospital and were listed in stable condition. A woman in her 60s appeared to have suffered a "graze-like" wound and was treated at the scene.
As police scrambled to locate the shooter, authorities identified 23-year-old Raymond Spencer as a person of interest.
By Friday night, police said the gunman appeared to have killed himself just as officers were about to locate him.
Authorities have declined to identify the shooter so far, but Contee noted Friday night that after the suspect was found dead, they were no longer looking for Spencer as a person of interest.
Police indicated that social media postings by Spencer just before the shooting, and a disturbing video that appeared to depict the shooting itself, pointed them in his direction.
Just minutes before the shooting, a user named Raymond Spencer posted on the online message board 4chan, saying, "Dear God please forgive me."
Minutes later, a 31-second video began circulating online showing what appeared to be the shooting. Multiple people with backpacks behind Edmund Burke School’s glass walkway could be seen scrambling as shots rang out. One person on the street with a yellow reflective vest was seen crouching and ducking behind a parked car.
Police flooded the area searching for the shooter.
Contee said officers went door-to-door searching for a suspect as authorities urged students and residents to shelter in place.
Meanwhile, the user identified as Raymond Spencer posted again: "They're in the wrong part of the building right now searching XD."
By the time police reached the shooter in a fifth-floor apartment, Contee said, he was dead.
"We believe the suspect took his own life as MPD members were entering or breaching the apartment where the suspect was located," Contee said.
Authorities said they found multiple weapons in the apartment, including three long guns and a tripod set up by the window.
"This was very much a sniper-type setup with a tripod, and this person, obviously his intent was to kill and hurt members of our community."
Police have not determined the shooter's motive, and it was unclear if he had any connection to the schools or other locations in the area.
"We will find out what the motive is," Contee said Friday. "Right now we do not have the answers."
For residents of DC, the attacks were eerily familiar to the DC sniper attack of 2002 that left 10 people dead in coordinated attacks that lasted days.
"I just think it speaks to the depravity of some of the individuals that we deal with out here," Contee said. "Someone who would do something like this, I really don't have a lot of words for it."
On Friday night, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a letter to the city linking the attack to the "epidemic of gun violence" and "easy access to firearms."
"Four people, including one child, were hit by gunfire in one short but devastating act of violence — the second of four shootings in our city today," she wrote. "All of this because a person who had no business having a gun got access to one and used it to terrorize a school community."
Investigators were looking into how the shooter obtained the weapons found by police, but Contee said at least one of the weapons appeared to have been purchased legally.
The attack came the same week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that guns have become the leading cause of death among children and teens, surpassing car crashes. In 2020, there were 45,222 firearm deaths in the US, and they had became the number one killer among people 19 years old or younger.
Between 2019 and 2020, gun deaths increased by 13.5%, according to the data, a sharp increase that appeared to have been driven by homicides.
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of April 23, at least 13,204 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.