Two people are dead and one was in “very critical condition,” according to Howard County police, after a shooting Thursday evening at a church in Ellicott City.
Police in droves swarmed the neighborhood after a custodian at , 3695 Rogers Ave., called police at about 5:20 p.m. to report finding two women shot inside an office in the building, according to Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County police spokeswoman.
One woman was pronounced dead at the scene; the other was taken to University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma center. “Her condition was described as ‘very critical,’” Llewellyn said at a press conference Thursday evening.
Neighbors called the incident in a quiet neighborhood shocking.
After police searched the interior of the building, Llewellyn said, they found the body of a man in nearby woods.
There is a “very real possibility that this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Llewellyn said, adding that a gun was found near the man's body. Other than that, she said, “We don’t know who the man in the woods is.”
Police were investigating a connection between the two incidents.
“It’s too early for us" to say what occurred at the church, Llewelyn said.
At about 6:40 p.m. a witness described the scene, saying there were 20–30 police vehicles around the church.
An hour later, police cars parked in the middle of Rogers Avenue blocked the road, while dozens of marked and unmarked cars, SUVs and vans lined the streets surrounding St. Peter’s, which was also teeming with media and residents.
Kelly Shaw, a court reporter who lives on the street, said the incident was troubling.
"I can't believe something like this is happening here," she said. "It's so shocking."
Andrea Mandato, a property manager, also lives nearby.
"This has always been a very quiet town," she said. "Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims."
Sarah Goldsmith, in her 20s, lives across the street and said a friend heard a gunshot coming from the woods.
"It can happen anywhere," she said. "Somebody goes crazy, and who knows?"
She said her 5-year-old sister saw the police presence outside, walked into the room and said, "'There's a real bad man in the neighborhood.'"
Councilwoman Courtney Watson, whose district includes Ellicott City, called the incident “highly unusual” and told The Baltimore Sun she was sure the police department was “working diligently…to find out what happened and why.”
As of 9 p.m., the police presence had thinned to about a half-dozen marked vehicles, and about a dozen residents were milling around, talking to reporters while a few officers directed traffic around the neighborhood.
The shooting rocked a relatively peaceful part of town as police came out in force - including a SWAT team - and a MedEvac helicopter swooped in, according to witnesses. is a half mile from the Howard County government’s campus, which includes the .
Still, the neighborhood is not immune from criminal activity. Last April, from the church. In , which was nonfatal, a 19-year-old Columbia man was critically injured after suffering multiple gunshot wounds at the Hilltop housing complex on Mount Ida Drive.
In September 2010, there was a , around the corner from St. Peter’s. The Ellicott City couple who died was reportedly in the middle of a custody dispute.
St Peter’s Episcopal Church has had a presence in Howard County for more than 150 years,according to its website. It describes itself as a diverse parish that is led by co-rectors The Revs. Kirk A. Kubicek and Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn.
With reporting by Patch.com editors Bruce Goldfarb and Brian Hooks.