Two women killed by a gunman who burst into a yoga class at a Florida shopping center were named on Saturday as a student and faculty member from Florida State University.
Police who rushed to the Hot Yoga studio in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon after reports of gunfire found four other people with bullet wounds and the body of the 40-year-old assailant, Scott Beierle, who had apparently shot himself.
The bloodshed prompted the city’s mayor, Andrew Gillum, who is also Florida’s Democratic candidate for governor, to temporarily halt his campaign and return to Tallahassee.
Authorities said there were signs members of the class had confronted Beierle after he opened fire inside the studio and then pistol-whipped one of them.
“There were indications that several people not only fought back but tried to save other people,” Tallahassee Police Chief Michael De Leo said at a news conference.
Detectives were looking for any links between the gunman and the victims, he said.
Two of the wounded remained in the hospital on Saturday in stable condition, police said.
One of the women killed was identified as Nancy Van Vessem, 61, a doctor specializing in internal medicine who was a member of the faculty at Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee.
The other was named as Maura Binkley, a 21-year-old student at FSU.
Their deaths were “just devastating to the FSU family,” said the university’s president, John Thrasher.
The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper said Van Vessem alsoworked as chief medical director for Capital Health Plan, which in a statement described her as a “guiding, visionary force” and”one of the most respected, inspiring, and accomplished medical professionals in the state and country.”
According to the Miami Herald newspaper, Binkley had attended Dunwoody High School in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, and was a senior at FSU with an English and German double major.
Gillum said on Twitter that no act of gun violence was acceptable.
Tallahassee’s murder rate has been an issue in the governor’s race ahead of Tuesday’s election, with Gillum’sopponent, Republican former US Representative Ron De Santis, accusing him of being weak on crime.
De Santis said the shooting was heartbreaking, and that he and his wife were praying for the victims.
Citing court records, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Beierle had a history of arrests for grabbing women.
Among officials who went to the studio after the shooting was city commissioner Scott Maddox.
“In my public service career, I have had to be on some bad scenes. This is the worst. Please pray,” Maddox posted on Facebook.
Dozens of yoga practitioners gathered on Saturday morning for an open-air session in front of the State Capitol, local media reported.
Alex Redding, a patron at bar near Hot Yoga, told the Democrat that people came inside seeking assistance, saying a man had started shooting after acting strangely inside the yoga studio.
Other victims, barefoot from their class, came into the bar in shock and barely able to speak, except to say “shooter,” the newspaper reported.