Five people were left dead, including a suspected gunman, following a shooting and standoff with police at a home in Washington state on Friday, but a 12-year-old girl escaped the carnage, Mason County authorities said.
Circumstances of the violence that unfolded in a rural area near the community of Belfair, about 25 miles (40 km) west of Seattle across Puget Sound, were not immediately clear.
But a neighbour told Reuters he heard several bursts of gunfire coming from the wooded property Thursday, assuming it was target shooting, and a Seattle Times account indicated the gunman himself had called police Friday morning to report he had shot four others.
The neighbour, Jack Pigott, 79, who lives across the road from the house where the incident occurred, said authorities told him the victims were all from one family and that the suspected gunman was a stepfather.
The latest round of deadly US gun violence came a day after a man near Wichita, Kansas, fatally shot three people to death and was slain by police at a Kansas lawnmower factory where he worked.
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state confirmed in a series of Twitter postings that four victims and a suspect who had shot himself were dead following a standoff, negotiations with a gunman and a report of four people shot at a private residence.
The sheriff’s office also posted pictures showing law enforcement officers with guns drawn taking cover behind their vehicles, and a row of patrol cars parked along a gravel road in a heavily wooded area, but it provided no further details.
After reporting that the scene had been secured, the sheriff tweeted that the 12-year-old girl was “safe after getting away from the shooter,” adding that her “relation to the shooter is not confirmed yet.”
The suspect “apparently came outside the home and shot himself,” Sheriff Casey Salisbury told the Seattle Times. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
Local broadcaster KING5 reported the gunman took his own life in front of sheriff’s deputies.
The newspaper quoted Sheriff Deputy Chief Ryan Spurling as saying authorities were dispatched to the home after a man called law enforcement on Friday morning and reported that he shot two children, a woman and another person.
Police surrounded the home but did not immediately enter the residence because the man was armed with a handgun, Spurling said, according to the Seattle Times.
The newspaper reported that a SWAT team eventually entered the home and found four people dead. They found the deceased suspect inside a different structure in another area on the property, KING5 reported.
Authorities said there were 11 structures on the property, according to KING5.
The girl who survived was found on the property after the standoff and though not seriously injured was transported to an area hospital as a precaution, KING5 reported.
The neighbour, Pigott, recounted stepping outside his own home between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Thursday to fetch some firewood off his porch when he heard gunshots - “four or five rounds and then a pause, and then another four or five rounds and a pause and then a couple more rounds.”
In the dark, he said, he “assumed they were target shooting, which they had a tendency to do once in awhile.”