BROOKLINE, Mass. — Two women were killed and five other people were wounded in nearly identical shooting attacks at two abortion clinics here Friday morning by a man clad entirely in black and wielding a .22-caliber hunting rifle.
The FBI immediately entered the case, joining local law authorities in a block-by-block search for the mysterious gunman, who may have been wounded in an exchange of gunfire with a security guard at one of the clinics. The guard was one of the injured.
Witnesses at both scenes gave similar descriptions of the gunman, and police issued a description of a single suspect--a white male of medium height with curly, dark hair. But they stopped short of saying the same man was responsible for both attacks.
State officials called it among the most extensive manhunts in Massachusetts history.
The search centered on Hampton, N.H., a coastal community just across the Massachusetts border, where investigators sought to question a 23-year-old suspect. A law enforcement source in Boston told the Associated Press that the suspect's name is John Salvi, whose last known address was Hampton. Authorities traced the ammunition used in the shooting to an area gun store after they recovered the dark-colored duffel bag the gunman left behind when he fled the second clinic. Inside the bag was a receipt for a pistol as well as for the rifle used in the killings.
Late Friday, detectives, state police and federal agents--some wearing flak jackets--searched a home in Ipswich, Mass., a summer resort town north of Boston and not far from Hampton. Investigators were tight-lipped after leaving the house--empty-handed.
Shannon Lowney of Arlington, Mass., a 25-year-old receptionist at the Planned Parenthood Clinic of Greater Boston, died at the scene, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds.
Lowney grew up in Fairfield, Conn., and graduated magna cum laude from Boston College in 1991, her brother Liam Lowney, 22, told the AP.
"She died doing what she believed in," Liam Lowney said. "She was committed to--and worked to provide--women the right to choose."
Susan Newsom, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, described Lowney as "a wonderful young woman, bright, personable and committed and what every person would want in a daughter."
At the Preterm Health Services, farther up Beacon Street, Leanne Nichols of Salem, N.H., was sprayed with bullets. The 38-year-old receptionist died soon after at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital.
Five other victims--two women and three men, including the security guard--were in fair to critical condition late Friday at area hospitals. All of the victims were either employees or volunteers at the clinics.
Still terrified as she stood outside the Preterm clinic, Deborah Gaines said she was among half a dozen women who were standing in the clinic's hallway when the gunman began shooting.
"He came in and started shooting anything, anyone he saw," Gaines said. "We were just running, running as fast as we could."
The shootings here brought to five the number of people killed in an escalation in violence at abortion clinics over the past two years. In Florida, two physicians and an abortion clinic escort were killed.
As the manhunt began, investigators said a key piece of evidence was a duffel bag found at the second clinic that was apparently used by the gunman to carry the rifle. The bag contained multiple rounds of ammunition, police said.
Detectives refused to reveal other materials found in the bag. But there were indications that its contents were helping to propel the investigation.
"There's a lot of work going on in the streets," one investigator said.
Natalya Kabanovsky, an electrolysis technician in Preterm's building, said a man fitting the description of the gunman had protested abortions over the past several months. "He was anxious. He wanted to tell everybody what happens here," she said.
Salvi, the suspect reportedly sought by authorities, was described in an AP report by Richard Griffin, his boss at a beauty salon, as "a very odd character" who proclaimed his opposition to abortion with a photo of a fetus on the back of his pickup truck.
Authorities were seeking an amateur videotape reportedly made by one of the regular protesters at the Planned Parenthood Clinic. A command post was set up at police headquarters here, where federal agents were seeking to trace purchase records for the weapon.
Nicki Gamble, president of Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts, said the clinic--which was participating in a nationwide trial of the French abortion pill RU 486--had been the target of repeated threats in recent months. Some, she said, had been "out of the ordinary."
Clinic officials were so alarmed that earlier this month they brought their concerns over the threats and continuing protests to a meeting with U.S. Justice Department officials in Boston.