THORNTON, Colo. — A gunman opened fire at a Walmart here on Wednesday evening, striking multiple people, the police said. Three victims were confirmed dead, including a woman who died after being taken to the hospital.
It was unclear whether the gunman was among those shot.
The Thornton Police Department confirmed the shooting on Twitter at 6:27 p.m. local time and urged people to stay away from the area. Shortly after 9 p.m., the department tweeted that it was reviewing security footage and interviewing witnesses to get a description of the suspect. No one was in custody, a police spokesman, Matt Barnes, told 9News Denver.
Hayne Rucker and Aaron Stephens said they had been checking out near the front of the Walmart when they heard a loud bang that echoed through the aisles. Two gunshots followed, and then three or four more in quick succession, they said.
“I just tore towards the door,” Mr. Rucker said.
Gonzalo Benitez, a construction worker, said he had been buying food for his family when he heard six or seven gunshots and customers began screaming.
“A lot of people crying, running fast,” Mr. Benitez, 44, said. “I see a couple of people on the floor.”
He and other customers rushed through the aisles to a rear exit door, he said, and had to pound against it to force it open.
The Walmart is part of the Thornton Town Center, a shopping complex steps from Interstate 25 in Thornton, a city of about 136,000 in the suburbs north of Denver. Outside the store, next to chain restaurants, apartment complexes and home supply stores, family members of shoppers and employees gathered across the street to wait for a sign of their loved ones.
“My brother is somewhere in there, and he doesn’t pick up,” said Maria Martinez, 19, as she walked around the flashing police cars blocking the entrance to the Walmart parking lot.
She said that her brother, Ignacio, 27, had gone to buy diapers for his three children, and that the family had been frantically texting and calling him since they heard about the shooting.
In addition to the three deaths reported by the police, two patients were treated at North Suburban Medical Center, the closest hospital to the Walmart. However, neither had been shot, and one was discharged later Wednesday, CBS Denver reported.
Mr. Rucker said that the terrorist attack in Manhattan on Tuesday and other mass shootings in public places — like a music festival in Las Vegas, an Orlando nightclub and a movie theater in nearby Aurora, Colo. — had injected a sliver of fear into ordinary errands like running out to the Walmart for groceries.
“You can’t get that out of your mind,” he said. “When you’re in a public place and you hear gunshots, that’s kind of the first thing that comes to your mind: Here we go again. Looks like this time, we are potential targets.”