DETROIT — Crews dug through a gutted Detroit medical building Tuesday, searching for two people unaccounted for after shots were fired inside and the structure was set on fire, police said.
A man believed responsible for the shooting and a woman who worked at the Park Medical Centers had not been located, said Dwane Blackmon, Detroit police homicide inspector.
"Initially, what we know is that it was an arson fire," Blackmon said. "It was started by an individual who we believe fired shots prior to the fire being started."
Investigators were unable to go deep into the one-story building, described by tenants as having also have a basement, due to fears of the structure's integrity. Blackmon was not able to confirm if there were any victims inside the building.
He also did not release the names of the missing, but the Antha Williams-Hill said police told her the woman who has yet to be accounted for is her 30-year-old daughter, Sharita Williams.
"She may still be in there. I want to know," said Williams-Hill, as heavy construction equipment tore off sections of the building's scorched roof which had not caved in from the blaze.
"I've been trying to get in touch with her since this morning," Williams-Hill continued. "I turned on the news and saw the building and said, 'Oh Lord!'"
The owners of two businesses inside Park Medical Centers said they were told by staff that a fired maintenance worker went inside about 9 a.m. Tuesday and waved a gun around.
A security guard yelled out that the former maintenance worker had taken "Sharita and is shooting at other people in the building," said Dr. Stuart Kirschenbaum, a podiatrist who operated his private practice from the building for about 30 years.
"Everyone called the police and we started running," he said. "And before you knew it, we saw fire coming from (a) clinic down the hall. Then we started seeing smoke coming from the end of the building."
Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin, a clinical psychologist, said she was driving in to a 9:10 a.m. appointment when a member of her staff called and said: "Kim, the building is on fire. They're shooting."
Logan-Nowlin told reporters that the man seen with the gun was the former maintenance worker.
Williams-Hill said her daughter had been working for the past year and a half as a medical assistant at one of the Park Medical Centers offices and that she had been in a relationship with the building's maintenance worker until recently breaking it off.
"He did a lot of stuff and she was trying to get away from him," Williams-Hill said. "She moved to Southfield to get away from him."
Southfield is one of a number of inner ring suburbs surrounding Detroit.
Police and arson investigators were interviewing people who worked in the building and relatives of Sharita Williams and Myron Williams.
Blackmon could not confirm whether the two had been in a relationship.
By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday it was clear that little if anything could be saved from the rapidly burning building.
Kirschenbaum, state boxing commissioner from 1981-1992, said a collection of Joe Louis memorabilia he kept from the sport likely was destroyed by flame, smoke and water. Boxing gloves, personal letters and photos were among the items lost, and Kirschenbaum estimated its value at about $100,000.
"It's gone," he said.