By F.T. NORTON
A gunman armed with an automatic rifle opened fire on and inside an IHOP restaurant Tuesday morning in Carson City, injuring several people and leaving at least one person dead in what was described as a methodical attack that also endangered customers in adjacent restaurants.
Multiple medical helicopters ferried wounded to area hospitals while authorities temporarily shut down busy Interstate 395, just yards from the shooting scene.
Ralph Swagler, owner of the adjacent Locals BBQ restaurant, told the Nevada Appeal that he saw the gunman pull up in a minivan, get out and begin firing an automatic rifle at the IHOP. The gunman then reloaded and went inside, and Swagler said he heard more gunshots inside the restaurant.
Swagler said bullets fired from inside IHOP shattered windows and struck his building as well as an adjacent H&R Block office.
Swagler said he had a handgun and considered opening fire on the shooter, but he didn’t want to engage a gunman who was armed with a fully automatic weapon.
Swagler’s son Ryan, who also works at the restaurant, said he heard the shots and was locking Locals’ front door when he and the gunman saw each other from across the parking lot. That’s when the gunman opened fire on Locals, striking it and the H&R Block office nearby.
Ryan Swagler said he saw an older woman walking toward an adjacent McDonald’s but was able to wave her off, and she took shelter inside Locals with the Swaglers.
The morning scene was chaotic, with diners having breakfast at IHOP and McDonald’s along the busy stretch of interstate, which doubles as Carson City’s main street.
Witnesses at the Casino Fandango, across the street from the IHOP, reported seeing bullet holes in the wall of the casino.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong scheduled a news briefing for 11 a.m.