POLITICS

Police in eastern Newfoundland investigate double-murder suicide after shootings

10/16/2013 11:01 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. - An armed man shot two people dead at a strip mall in eastern Newfoundland before taking his own life at a cemetery in what police said Wednesday was a double-murder suicide.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary initially said a 35-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man were killed Tuesday night after shots were fired at a doctor's office at the Villa Nova Plaza in Conception Bay South, about 25 kilometres southwest of St. John's.

But Const. Talia Murphy said later Wednesday there was information to suggest the woman was shot inside the clinic, while the man was shot in the parking lot.

The body of a 43-year-old man, who police believe was responsible for the shootings, was found Wednesday in a cemetery on Kenmount Road in the capital city.

Murphy said police had information suggesting the shooter and the woman who was killed were involved in a romantic relationship in the past.

"We do not believe there is a public safety concern at this time," Murphy said in an interview. "This wasn't a random act of violence. These individuals were known to each other, and the investigation into the motivation behind this is still ongoing."

Police said they recovered a handgun believed to be used in the incident, but released few other details. The nature of the relationship between the man and woman killed at the plaza was not disclosed.

"At this time, out of respect for the family, we're only giving out limited information," said Murphy.

Officers were called to the plaza around 7 p.m. after a report of gunshots fired. The area was quickly cordoned off, businesses were shut down and residents were advised to stay inside their homes as police searched for the shooter.

Mayor Ken McDonald was in a council meeting next door to the plaza when it was interrupted by the fire chief, who told council members there had been a shooting. Members of council and municipal staff were told to stay inside the town hall as a precaution for about 30 minutes until police said it was safe to leave.

"There was nervousness walking out of town hall last night knowing there was an armed suspect who could be anywhere," he said.

There have been two armed robberies at a pharmacy in the plaza in recent months, but McDonald said violence is rare in the town of 24,000 people.

"It's very upsetting that it happened," he said. "There are three families that are affected by this incident right now and, if nothing else, our prayers and thoughts should be with their families regardless of what happened because they've got a couple of hard days ahead of them now to deal with this."

Meanwhile, the Eastern School District said three of its schools in the area that were closed early Wednesday re-opened for afternoon classes after police confirmed there was no longer a threat to public safety.

— By Melanie Patten in Halifax

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said police recovered firearms and that the two victims were shot inside the doctor's office.