POSTED: 09:35 p.m. HST, Apr 09, 2013
DETROIT >> A man identified by employees as a former maintenance worker opened fire today inside a Detroit medical facility, sending workers and visitors screaming and rushing for the doors just moments before the building erupted in flames.
Crews digging through the gutted Park Medical Centers building hours after the fire recovered the remains of a man and a woman, Detroit police said tonight in a release.
Authorities did not release the identities of the dead, pending autopsies, but police had been searching for 35-year-old medical assistant Sharita Williams and the fired maintenance worker, who relatives said was her ex-boyfriend.
Williams’ mother, Antha Williams-Hill, told The Associated Press that one of her daughter’s co-workers told her that the man threatened her daughter inside.
“He said, ‘You think I’m playing with you?”’ Williams-Hill said. “He told the other girl, ‘I think you better get out of here.’ The girl left and said she then heard two shots.”
Last week, Sharita Williams was granted a personal protection order against the man, according to Wayne County Court records.
Williams-Hill said two days earlier, someone had emailed her sexually explicit photos of her daughter that also were posted on Facebook. The text accompanying the photos read: “How do you like Sharita’s new boyfriend?” her mother said.
Dr. Stuart Kirschenbaum, a podiatrist who operated his private practice from the building for about 30 years, said he heard a security guard yell that the gunman “had taken Sharita and is shooting at other people in the building.”
Destroyed in the blaze, Kirschenbaum said, was his collection of boxing gloves, personal letters and photos of boxing great Joe Louis. He estimated the memorabilia were worth about $100,000.
Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin, a clinical psychologist, said she was driving in for an appointment Tuesday morning when a member of her staff called with this frantic message: “Kim, the building is on fire. They’re shooting.”
Dwane Blackmon, Detroit police homicide inspector, declined to identify the maintenance man as the suspect but said everyone else inside except the woman and male suspect appeared to have escaped the blaze.
Investigators were unable to quickly go deep into the one-story building, described by tenants as also having a basement, due to fears of the structure’s integrity.
Williams-Hill said she was asked to go to the coroner’s office to identify whether the deceased woman was her daughter “because of the condition of the body.”
She said her daughter had been dating the married maintenance man for more than a year, but their relationship was rocky and Sharita eventually began seeing someone else and even moved out of the city and into a Detroit suburb to get away. However, he refused to leave her alone, Williams-Hill said.
Police and arson investigators on Tuesday interviewed people who worked in the building and relatives of Sharita Williams and the maintenance man.
Blackmon could not confirm whether the two had been in a relationship.
Associated Press writers Mike Householder and Jeff Karoub contributed to this report.