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Gunman knew engineer he killed at NASA, police say

Story Highlights

• NEW: Gunman was Bill Phillips, a contract employee, Center says
• NEW: David Beverly, a NASA employee, was killed
• NEW: Police: A third person was shot, police said. One hostage OK
• Shootings happened at NASA's Johnson Space Center
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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- A NASA engineer Friday shot and killed another engineer and then turned the gun on himself at the Johnson Space Center, police and NASA officials said.

The shootings occurred in a single office in Building 44 on the sprawling campus.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said two other hostages were involved -- one was shot and injured, another was released without injury. The hostage who was not harmed is NASA contractor Fran Crenshaw, who the gunman allegedly tied up with duct tape.

Crenshaw wiggled out of the tape and alerted authorities about what was happening, Hurtt said. She is talking with Houston Police.

Space Center Director Michael Coats identified the gunman as Bill Phillips, a contract employee, and the dead victim as David Beverly, a NASA employee. The other shooting victim has not been identified.

Police have not determined a motive for the killing, but Hurtt said that there apparently had been "some kind of dispute" between Beverly and Phillips.

Crenshaw happened to be in the area at the time of the shooting and was taken hostage, he said.

"As I understand the chain of events, she was very courageous, a very calming influence during this whole thing," Hurtt said. "There was a positive relationship between her and the suspect. At no time did he threaten to do injury to her."

The situation started at about 1:40 p.m. (2:40 p.m. ET) when police responded to a call that a person with a gun had entered Building 44. A witness reported two gunshots at the time, Houston Police Capt. Dwayne Ready said. (Watch employees being evacuated after gunfire is heard Video)

"While they [SWAT teams] were trying to establish communication, they heard an additional gunshot," he said.

Believing the suspect may have shot himself, they decided to move in and found that he had committed suicide.

"Also on the same floor was one other hostage that was shot," Ready said. "We believe that may have happened early on in the whole ordeal."

Ready said the gun used was a short-barrel handgun, possibly a .38 or .357.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield said Building 44 is a small office building on the campus.

"I don't have an exact number of people in that building (but) they evacuated the building," he said.

Hartsfield said that NASA security rules do not allow weapons on the property.

Hartsfield said that initially, NASA advised all employees to remain inside, but later said all were free to go home at the end of their workdays.

Center operations experienced no disruptions, he said.

In a statement on its Web site, Johnson Space Center said that "Building 44 is a communications and engineering office building with two stories. The building primarily consists of office space and a few labs to support tracking of spacecraft, such as the International Space Station and the space shuttle when it's flying."

Nearby Space Center Intermediate School was placed on lockdown temporarily, said Karen Permetti, spokeswoman for Clear Creek Independent School District.

The school has about 1,100 students, she said.


A view of the Johnson Space Center on Friday. A gunman shot a hostage and himself, police say.



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