Police believe a 23-year-old Columbia Machine worker in Smithsburg came to his workplace and opened fire on Thursday, killing three people and injuring another.

The suspect then fled south on Mapleville Road, where he participated in a shootout with Maryland State Police troopers. The suspect and an officer were injured.

Police have released some of what they know about the mass shooting, including a general overview of the events and the names of the victims.

Still, there’s a lot we don’t know, including the identity and motive of the shooter.

Smithsburg active shooter

The active shooter’s report came to police around 2.30pm on Thursday at the old Bikle Manufacture, 12921 Bikle Road.

The company was purchased by Vancouver-based Columbia Machine Inc. in 2019. It is a large board mold maker and repair service provider, according to its website.

In a news release late Friday, police said the suspect showed up for his normal shift at the Columbia Machine and worked all day.

At some point before 2:30 p.m., he “exited the building, retrieved a weapon from his vehicle, and returned to the business. The suspect proceeded to the break room area and began shooting at the employees,” the statement read.

Smithsburg police were the first to arrive, according to Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore. They “located an injured subject outside the company in a field,” he said.

That injured person was Brandon Chase Michael, 42. He was taken to Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown. His condition and the nature of his injuries were not known as of Friday.

The deceased were identified as:

  • Mark Alan Frey, 50, Hagerstown
  • Charles Edward Minnick Jr., 31, Smithsburg
  • Joshua Robert Wallace, 30, Hagerstown

Members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office met with and offered support to the families of those killed and injured Thursday, according to Sgt. Carly Hose, the department spokeswoman.

She also said Smithsburg Valley Baptist Church, which is near Columbia Machine on Bikle Road, placed its daycare center on lockdown during the incident. The children were not injured.

Mapleville Road shooting leaves two injured

The suspect fled in his vehicle, a bronze Mitsubishi Eclipse, before police arrived.

Sheriff’s deputies “quickly put out a show for a vehicle and a suspect and a sense of direction,” said Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Bill Dofflemyer.

Three State Police Troopers were driving north on Mapleville Road (Md. 66) toward the Smithsburg area scene when they encountered a vehicle matching this description.

Deputies with the Washington County Sheriff's Office are investigating the aftermath of a mass shooting at the Columbia Machine near Smithsburg, Maryland on Thursday.

“When the soldiers went to stop the vehicle, the suspect immediately began firing multiple shots at the soldiers,” Dofflemyer said. “The soldiers returned fire, beating the suspect.”

The suspect, who lives in West Virginia, was taken to Meritus, Dofflemyer said. Police have not released his name, condition or the nature of his injuries.

In Friday’s press release, the sheriff’s office said “the identity of the suspect will not be released until he receives the charging documents.”

The wounded soldier was also not named. But state police said he was a 25-year veteran of the force, assigned to the West Region Criminal Law Enforcement Division.

The rider was also taken to Meritus. He was discharged from the hospital Thursday evening.

Mapleville Road was closed for hours as authorities investigated the scene just south of the Mapleville Road and Mount Aetna traffic circle. Three vehicles – a Ford SUV, a Chevrolet sedan and a Mitsubishi Eclipse – were eventually transported.

Officers from multiple agencies, including the Smithsburg Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and explosives were at the scene.

With the assistance of the Berkeley County, W.Va., sheriff’s office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, authorities executed a search warrant at the residence of the suspect in West Virginia. Additional firearms were found, police said in their Friday statement.

Prayer vigils for the victims

A prayer vigil will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at Shiloh United Methodist Church, 19731 Shiloh Church Road, for the victims of the mass shooting near Smithsburg and others across the country.

Police from multiple agencies are working at the scene of an incident at Mapleville Road and Mount Aetna Road south of Smithsburg.

The church will also be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for prayer and for another vigil on Sunday at 11 a.m. with concerned church members

“Members of Shiloh United Methodist Church and Trinity Lutheran Church in Smithsburg were directly impacted by these shootings, as were many in our community,” the Hagerstown-area religious council wrote. in a press release. “The fabric of our community as a whole is also affected by the local loss, as well as the fear and frustration that these tragedies are happening every week across our country.”

The organization invites “clergy, believers and the community” to mourn the victims and “to offer prayers and support for the families and friends of the victims as well as the injured and still with us, and to pray for the healing of our community and country.”

And a candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Lions Community Park, 12835 Bikle Road. An announcement from the vigil, meant to “honor and remember the lives lost,” was posted online by Whispering Hills and Smithsburg, MD, a private Facebook group.

What else do we know?

  • The weapon used at both scenes was a semi-automatic handgun, and a handgun was found in the vehicle on Mapleville Road, police said. A semi-automatic weapon fires one shot each time a person pulls the trigger, automatically reloading for the next shot.
  • “The weapon used in both scenes was a semi-automatic handgun,” Mullendore said. A semi-automatic weapon fires one shot each time a person pulls the trigger, automatically reloading for the next shot.
  • A handgun was found in the vehicle on Mapleville Road.
  • It was the second shooting in Washington County in two days. On Wednesday evening, a 19-year-old was injured in the Valley Mall parking lot. A 21-year-old has been charged in connection with the incident.
  • Columbia Machine CEO Rick Goode released a statement saying the company was deeply saddened. “We are working closely with local authorities as the investigation continues. Our top priority during this tragic event is the safety and well-being of our employees and their families,” the statement said.
  • Meritus Health President and CEO Maulik Joshi said hospital staff, while giving “hope to these victims”, also continued to care for others suffering from serious medical emergencies that afternoon. “These times were also heartbreaking for our teams. Management has placed appropriate areas under lockdown to exercise extreme caution with the advice of law enforcement,” he said in a written statement.

Other things we don’t know

  • The reason.
  • What the suspect was doing in the hours leading up to the incident.
  • The make, model and caliber of the weapon, and where and when it was acquired. Police did not immediately release the make, model or caliber of the weapon because that information “is part of the investigation”, Mullendore said.

Mike Lewis covers business, economics and other issues. Follow Mike on Twitter: @MiLewis.

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