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Oct. 26, 2012 story: Police say male shooter dies; woman who was shot likely from Cottage Grove

Police responded to a report of a shooting shortly before 3:45 p.m. Thursday at this Cottage Grove retail plaza, located at 7750 Harkness Avenue. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente.2 / 7
Cottage Grove emergency workers place a patient inside an ambulance following a shooting outside a Cottage Grove strip mall. Police said later that a man was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Witnesses told police that the man had shot a woman before shooting himself. The woman died near the scene. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente3 / 7
A door to Anytime Fitness in Cottage Grove was shattered in a shooting Thursday in Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente4 / 7
Police said the crime scene of a Thursday shooting covered an entire parking lot at a Cottage Grove strip mall. A woman was found dead inside Jimmy John's restaurant in the strip mall, police said. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente5 / 7
A Thursday shooting occurred outside a strip mall near the intersection of Harkness and Hardwood avenues in Cottage Grove. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente6 / 7
Cottage Grove police Chief Craig Woolery briefs the media Thursday afternoon following a shooting. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente7 / 7

A man who shot and killed a woman Thursday outside a Cottage Grove strip mall died later in the evening after being hospitalized for a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

Police said late Thursday the man died at Regions Hospital, hours after he chased down a woman in a parking lot outside a fitness club and fired as many as 12-15 shots in a mid-afternoon shooting observed by a number of witnesses and possibly caught on camera, police said.

Police responded about 3:35 p.m. to multiple reports that shots were fired in front of the Gateway North strip mall and that a man was chasing a woman with a gun, Cottage Grove Police Chief Craig Woolery said. Officers found the woman dead inside a Jimmy John's restaurant in the commercial complex and the shooter suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was transported by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he later died.

Their relationship to one another was not immediately known, police said. Their identities and ages were not released pending identification by the medical examiner and notification of relatives.

Further information was expected Friday.

Cottage Grove Police Capt. Pete Koerner, who was among officers on scene late Thursday, said his "best guess" was the woman lived in Cottage Grove and the man had moved back and forth between Cottage Grove and Dakota County.

Nobody else was injured in the shooting, Koerner said. "This wasn't a random act."

Police said it was an active investigation -- the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension remained on scene late Thursday -- and they interviewed a number of witnesses to the shooting.

"This is a public event, this happened in front of a lot of people," Woolery said.

The strip mall includes Anytime Fitness, Las Margaritas and Jimmy John's restaurants and other businesses. The building is located at 7750 Harkness Avenue, north of 80th Street near Highway 61.

The shooter used a handgun and may have fired as many as 12-15 rounds, based on the spent and live shell casings found at the scene, Koerner said.

"It was a lot," he said.

The man followed the woman into Jimmy John's, but Koerner said he did not know whether the man shot himself before or after entering the restaurant. He was taken by ambulance shortly after the shooting but the woman's body remained at the scene late Thursday as investigators processed the scene, Koerner said.

Police planned to seek a search warrant to access the man's home, he said.

'I heard a pop'

The shooting rattled witnesses who were in businesses and in the parking lot when the man started firing.

Cottage Grove resident Steve Mack said he was changing his clothes in a bathroom at Anytime Fitness when he heard commotion outside.

"I heard a pop and I heard screaming," he said. The screaming kept getting louder.

The suspect had been chasing the woman around Mack's truck in the lot, he said.

Mack, who was interviewed by police, said he saw closed-circuit video of the woman on a treadmill inside Anytime Fitness before the shooting.

Koerner said the shooter never was in the fitness club, but it appeared at least one bullet struck and shattered a glass entrance door to Anytime Fitness.

Andrew Turner, a 23-year-old Cottage Grove man, was working out Anytime Fitness when he said he heard what he believed to be gunshots.

"I was running on the machine and heard a 'pop' and a door break," Turner said as he stood behind police tape and watched authorities investigate the scene. Turner said he quickly moved to rear of the gym during the shooting because "I didn't want to get shot."

"I've never seen more cops here in my life," he said.

At least a dozen law enforcement vehicles from the Cottage Grove and St. Paul Park police departments and Washington County Sheriff's Office were on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, some interviewing employees of the Jimmy John's that sits two doors down from the gym.

An Anytime Fitness spokesman said there are closed-circuit cameras outside the front of the club, but Woolery said Thursday evening it is not known whether the shooting was captured on camera.

Woolery said the public is safe.

"There is no threat to the community," he said. "This event is over and it was over very quickly."

Two fatal police-involved shootings in 2010 were the last shootings in Cottage Grove before Thursday. In two separate incidents on Hadley Avenue, suspects were fatally shot by law enforcement after confrontations with police.

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