Omar Santa Perez, armed with a 9-millimeter handgun and enough ammunition to cause “a bloodbath beyond imagination,” opened fire Thursday morning during the peak of rush hour in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Records show it wasn't the first run-in he'd had with police, though it would turn out to be his last.
Three people were killed in the shooting at the Fifth Third Center near the city’s Fountain Square, and two others injured. Perez, 29, died while exchanging gunfire with police. He owned the handgun legally, according to police chief Eliot K. Isaac, and purchased it in August from a local gun shop in Cincinnati. He wearing a suit, and carried a briefcase containing more than 250 rounds of ammunition. He fired 35 shots in total, starting 9:06 a.m. The shooting lasted exactly four minutes and 28 seconds.
Investigators have yet to identify a motive or whether he had a specific target, but Mayor John Cranley said in a press briefing that it “does appear that there was some random shooting involved.”
“This strikes me as a multiple shooting of innocent victims,” Cranley said.
But records indicate the shooter had a turbulent life plagued with anger and minor run-ins with the police.
In a press conference Thursday evening, Chief Isaac, with the caveat that the investigation was still in its early stages, said that police don’t believe there was any nexus to terrorism and are focusing their investigation on the shooter.
“There’s a possibility there are some mental health issues involved,” Isaac added.
According to public records, the gunman, a registered Republican, had been living at an apartment complex in North Bend, a small village less than 16 miles from Cincinnati.
He had criminal records in both Florida and South Carolina, mostly for minor offenses.
According to an Oct 1, 2014 incident report provided to VICE News by Greenville Police Department, the shooter was arrested and slapped with a misdemeanor trespassing charge after his employer at Confluence Watersports, a kayak manufacturer, tried to fire him.
The report says the shooter refused to leave the premises until his employer had produced documentation confirming his termination.
“During the past week while working, Omar had been throwing items/ tools and was ‘not acting right’,” the police report states. “[His employer] was afraid of what Omar might do.”
According to the report, the gunman “appeared to be upset and disoriented.” “When I would ask the suspect questions but he would respond with strange answers,” the report states. “The suspect mumbled something about the war and the economy, but for the most part talked about that he was upset that he was terminated. I asked the suspect to leave the property. He told me that he wasn’t going to leave and began to cry.”
He’d also racked up other arrests in Florida for traffic violations, possession of a small amount of marijuana, disorderly conduct, and nonviolently resisting arrest. In one 2010 run-in, according to an incident report provided by Coconut Creek Police Department, police responded to a disturbance at a local casino, where they found him “not behaving normally, continuing to laugh and talk to himself, while making random spontaneous utterances.”
Earlier this year, the shooter tried to sue NBC Universal and T.D. Ameritrade for $5.1 million, according to court documents obtained by local station WLWT. In the suit, he alleged “unwanted intrusion into his elections”, defamation, and emotional distress. On June 25, Federal Magistrate Karen Litkovitz recommended dismissing the case, which was filed in Cincinnati, noting that shooter’s allegations were “rambling, difficult to decipher and borders on delusional.”
Cover image: Emergency personnel and police work the scene of shooting near Fountain Square, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in downtown Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)