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Two dead, 2 injured in shooting at Westerly housing complex

Westerly — A 66-year-old resident of a subsidized assisted-living housing complex on Cross Street shot three women Thursday morning, killing one, before killing himself, police said at an afternoon news conference.

The shooting suspect was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after investigators identified him on surveillance footage from the complex office — where the women were shot — and deployed a video-recording robot from the Rhode Island State Bomb Squad into his residence, police said.

The woman who was killed was a 47-year-old Westerly resident and an employee of Babcock Village, a complex at 122 Cross St. that houses about 200 to 250 people, Westerly police Chief Shawn Lacey said. The Providence Journal identified her as Julie Lynn Cardinal, a mother of five.

Morgan Bettencourt, identified as Cardinal's daughter, posted about her mother's death on her Facebook page Thursday evening. "You see things like this all over the news everyday. But you never think something like this could happen to you, or your family," she wrote. A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for the funeral expenses.

A 38-year-old employee of the complex, who was in critical condition Thursday afternoon, was transferred from Westerly Hospital by Life Star helicopter to Yale New Haven Hospital. The other survivor, a 67-year-old resident of the complex, is at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and is in stable condition after having surgery, police said.

Law enforcement officials have not identified the victims, pending notification of kin.

Police said they were familiar with the suspect, who also has not yet been identified, but didn't say in what capacity. "We've had some sort of dealing with him in the past," Lacey said.

Lacey said investigators had "no idea" whether the shooting was random or targeted, or whether the shooting suspect knew the victims personally. One firearm was recovered from the scene.

‘Shock to the community’

Police said they received the first call reporting a shooting at 10:32 a.m., followed quickly by another. Upon arriving on the scene, officers created a perimeter and went door to door in the facility to clear every room. They reviewed surveillance video to identify the suspect, who entered and left the office area about the time that the shots were reported, Lacey said.

The shootings came as a "shock to the community," he said. "Obviously this is a low-crime community. This is obviously a call, or active-shooter situation, that we don't handle on a regular basis."

Lillian Rogers, 54, was leaving her unit in the B Wing of Babcock Village apartments about 10 a.m. when she heard sirens. Soon after, she heard shouting from the office downstairs. When she came out of the stairwell and onto the main floor, she saw blood.

A woman, Rogers said, was lying on the ground covered in blood. Another resident, a woman whose name Rogers could not recall, was sitting in a chair with blood spattered across her face.

“I heard yelling and screaming,” Rogers said. “Next thing I know, there’s cops telling me to keep my hands up.”

She put up her hands and walked outside, where she stood crying as police swarmed the building where she has lived for five years.

She began fielding phone calls from friends still inside the building, who she said were scared and confused. "I have a lot of friends inside," she said.

Speaking on the phone with one friend who was still in her unit, Rogers said, “Stay in your apartment and do what they tell you.”

“Keep the door shut,” she told her friend. “Don't be nervous.”

Rogers said the office area is just to the right inside the main doors. She said there are no security guards stationed at the doors to the building.

Westerly Town Council Vice President Suzanne Giorno, who lives at 9 Midland Road across the street from Babcock Village, said she heard what sounded like a loud bang Thursday morning. “It wasn’t extremely loud but it was enough for me to look out my window to see what was going on,” she said.

That's when she saw a woman with no coat on running down Midland Road screaming and crying. “It was a real shock,” Giorno said. “She was in a complete panic, and completely in tears.”

Giorno went outside to speak with the woman and asked if she needed help. “She said that there was a shooter who was going through and shooting people,” Giorno said.

Giorno went back inside her home to call police, when she heard sirens.

The town councilor said she was impressed with how quickly authorities responded to the scene and created a perimeter. She said she saw police escorting people out of the building with their arms up and checking them.

“It was amazing how fast they were actually on the scene so I give our town, not just our town of Westerly Police Department, but the surrounding area, Stonington, the state police, as well as the National Guard, everybody a lot of credit for getting here as fast as they did,” Giorno said.

Shortly after responding, police took one person out of the building in handcuffs, but he was no longer a suspect, Lacey said. The chief said it was not yet known whether the suspected shooter acted alone, but police did not think there was any further threat to the community as of 2:30 p.m.

Babcock Village was on lockdown most of the day as police went "door to door checking every room," Lacey said. The building, except for the immediate crime scene, was reopened Thursday afternoon for residents to move about freely, police said. Westerly and Stonington schools were under lockdown until about 12:45 p.m.

The incident is under joint investigation by Rhode Island State and Westerly police.

Day Staff Writer Mary Biekert contributed to this report.

t.hartz@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the address of the complex.

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