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Gunman Kills Self, Hostage at NASA Center in Houston


A lone gunman killed one person and then himself at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Friday. Spokesmen for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, say the incident did not disrupt operations, which include flight control for the international space station. VOA Houston correspondent Greg Flakus, who is on the road in Mobile, Alabama, has this report.

NASA has identified the gunman as a contract employee named William Phillips and the dead hostage as David Beverly. Both men worked as electrical engineers in Building 44, an electronics laboratory and the site of the shooting on the Johnson Space Center campus.

One female, who had early on been taken hostage and bound with tape, managed to free herself enough to call an emergency telephone number and alert police as to what was taking place. Houston police responded with a SWAT team, consisting of specially trained officers armed with assault weapons.

But Houston Police Department officer Dwayne Ready says the SWAT team members were still outside when they heard the first shot.

"They did hear one additional gunshot. Believing that the suspect may have shot himself, the decision was made to make entry," he said. "As our SWAT team members made entry they did, indeed, determine that the suspect shot himself one time to the head."

The SWAT team assisted the female hostage, later identified as Fran Crenshaw and treated her for minor injuries.

The shooting occurred only days after the worst gun-related incident in US history, the killings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Spokesman for the Johnson Space Center Michael Coats says guns are not allowed at the facility and that just this week there had been a review of security measures to prevent just this sort of incident.

"Earlier in the week, we had reviewed, in fact, as a result of the Virginia Tech shootings, had reviewed our own procedures here at the Johnson Space Center, security procedures and response procedures and so forth," he said. "But of course, we never believed this could happen here to our family and our situation."

Coats says the space center does random checks of employee vehicles, but he did not elaborate on what kind of procedures are used to prevent workers from bringing weapons to the site.

The Houston police, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will continue to investigate the shooting incident in an effort to determine why it happened. The only information they have at the moment is that there may have been some personal dispute between Phillips and his victim.

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