ELKHART, Ind. -- Check WNDU.com for the latest on this story --
Two women and one man are dead after a shooting inside a Martin's Super Market grocery store Wednesday night in Elkhart.
The gunman entered through the deli door around 10 p.m. at the Martin's located in the 3900 block of E. Bristol Street, then opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun.
"We believe it was a single shooter and he is dead," Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith said at a press conference early Thursday morning.
Police shot and killed the gunman, a 22-year-old white male, who lived in the area. They say the gunman had his weapon pointed at a third person when he arrived, then pointed the gun at them before they fired the fatal shots.
The victims are described as a 44-year-old female shopper and a 20-year-old Martin's employee.
“We are pretty confident that Elkhart's quick response to the scene most definitely saved lives tonight," Smith said regarding Elkhart Police Department's reaction to the initial 911 call. Two Elkhart Police officers were on the scene within three minutes.
The relationship, if any, between the two victims and the shooter is unknown. Police said the victims' bodies were found 10-12 store aisles apart.
Tony Beltran's mother works at the store and talked to her shortly after the shooting.
"She told me that she heard what sounded like gunshots and everybody around her was telling her that they heard gunshots."
"What I was told by my mother was that they evacuated Martin's and at the time that she gave me the call, she was outside. I asked her if she was okay; she was all right."
Police found both a knife and a large caliber, semi-automatic handgun in the store. "Several" rounds were exchanged between officers and the gunman.
"That's today's society, unfortunately," Smith said. "We live in that world. There is not a day that goes by it seems anymore that we aren't learning about a school shooting or at a business. We hope this would never come to our hometown, and here it is."
Because it was an officer involved shooting, Elkhart police have handed over the investigation to the Indiana State Police, per standard protocol.
The store was open at the time of the shooting.
"It's a huge crime scene," Smith said. "The area where the shootings happened in the store are basically from one area of the store to the next."
Witnesses were taken to the police station and the Indiana State Police are continuing the investigation.
Jessica Smith is the general manager at the Fat Tomato, a restaurant directly next to Martin's.
"It was very scary," she said. "We had just finished up our night a little bit before 10 and we were put on lock down by the police department. I was essentially holding 20 plus people hostage in my building."
"This is my neighborhood. This is where I live. I know so many people who work in there. This is devastating."
Martin's Super Markets posted the following on their Facebook page Wednesday night: "Thank you to our community for your thoughts and prayers tonight. We will comment further when we can do so responsibly and appropriately."
"It makes me feel angry, obviously," Beltran added. "This world, I guess, is kind of screwed up right now. You can't even go to the grocery store and not be safe."