A gunman sporting a Mohawk haircut and a black trenchcoat opened fire with an AK-47 rifle at a Canadian college on Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring 20 before police shot him dead, officials, witnesses and news reports said here.
The gunman entered Dawson College, an English language school in downtown Montreal, and opened fire at 12:45 pm (1645 GMT), city police chief Yvan Delorme told reporters.
The incident paralyzed downtown Montreal as terrified students fled in droves and police blocked off streets, even closing a metro (subway) station that directly accesses the college.
Delorme said authorities did not know of a motive for the shooting, but said there were no indications that it was an act of terrorism or was motivated by racism.
"For now, I will only say there is one suspect who is dead following the arrival of the first police on the scene," said Delorme.
Police killed the shooter, Delorme said. "I can confirm that there is another suspect," he added, giving no further details.
After the press conference, Radio-Canada reported that a 20 year-old woman died of her wounds. Police had not yet confirmed her death.
Delorme said 20 victims were hospitalized following the shooting, at least three with serious injuries.
"At 12:41 pm (1641 GMT), an individual penetrated the establishment and opened fire in different places," said Delorme. Police showed up three minutes later and quickly took control, Delorme said.
Authorities evacuated an adjacent commercial skyscraper and its retail center, in which witnesses said they heard the gunfire, television networks reported.
"We were in class. We heard gunshots, a couple of gunshots. We heard a bunch of girls yelling," student Daniel Harrosh, 17, told AFP. "I opened the door, I saw a bunch of people running, I closed it, then the teacher came. He locked the door and then said something major was going on in the other room. At a certain point, the lights went off. We heard several gunshots, a dozen maybe."
Another witness, Michel Boyer, told CTV television that he "saw the gunman who was dressed in black and at that time he was shooting at people. It was probably one of the most frightening moments of my life."
Hours after the shooting, groups of students still shocked by the incident sat near the police perimeter surrounding the campus, hugging each other for comfort. Curious onlookers flocked to the site as helicopters circled above.
Student Roxanne Michaud, 19, told AFP that she locked herself into a classroom with four other students and two professors for two and a half hours when the shooting began. "We listened to the radio and checked the Internet to find out what was happening," she said. "We couldn't call anyone because the portable telephones did not work."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the incident as "a cowardly and senseless act of violence."
He added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and their loved ones, and to the students and staff of the college who are all victims of this terrible tragedy."
Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay described the incident as a "very unhappy event," but also one that was "isolated."
Quebec Premier Jean Charest said that the whole province was "distressed" by news, and expressed "deep sorrow for the victims, the families, (and) for the parents who have children studying at Dawson."
The shooting recalled the so-called Montreal Massacre on December 6, 1989, at Montreal's engineering school Ecole Polytechnique.
In that incident, a gunman, Marc Lepine, killed 14 female students before killing himself.
And in August 1992 a professor at Concordia University in Montreal killed four colleagues.