Crowds see CNN shooting scene live, on TV


ATLANTA -- In the same atrium where panic had scattered witnesses just moments before, large-screen televisions showed crowds CNN's coverage of a fatal shooting in the complex that houses the network's headquarters.

"We heard the shots, pop, pop, pop," said Victoria Opalach, who was at a Starbucks coffee shop in the building's main atrium when the shooting occurred Tuesday in a nearby hallway. "Everybody stood up and started running."

Hundreds of diners and tourists rushed in a human wave away from the sounds of gunshots. Sandwiches were dropped in mid-bite, and a few people ducked under tables. Lines of people waiting for CNN studio tours quickly fell apart as police officers rushed to the scene.

Soon afterward, an injured man and woman were carried out on stretchers, just feet from the televisions and the crowds watching. Police say a domestic dispute led a man to pull a gun on a woman and shoot her just before 1:30 p.m.; a security guard then shot the man.

The woman died on arrival at a downtown hospital. The man, whose face was covered in blood when he was carried out on a stretcher, was in critical condition.

Police spokesman James Polite described the man as the woman's ex-boyfriend.

The woman worked at the attached Omni Hotel, officials said. She was Clara Riddles, 22, of College Park, said Caryn Kboudi, a spokeswoman for the hotel chain, based in Texas. She did not know what Riddles did at the hotel, and said the company was not aware of any of the woman's domestic troubles.

Minutes after the shooting, an announcement over the building's public-address system said there had been gunfire "with potential casualties." Police cordoned off an area by the escalators near the main entrance of the building, facing Centennial Olympic Park. The park is where a bomb exploded during the 1996 Summer Olympics, killing a woman and wounding more than 100 people.

"I heard four or five shots. I really didn't see it. I got out of there quick," said Jas Stanford, 27, who had been helping take down a temporary stage in the park used for college basketball's Final Four festivities.

Besides the Omni Hotel, the complex includes restaurants, a bookstore and souvenir shops. It's connected to Philips Arena, home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and NHL's Atlanta Thrashers.

Jacques Richard, 60, of Paris, was part of a group touring the CNN studios when he heard the gunfire. He said the group was immediately brought down an elevator and dispersed. "We had our guide with us and everyone was calm," he said.

In the food court, Trina Johnson, 44, of Atlanta, was with her daughter on a family outing.

"All of a sudden we heard a big boom. We thought it was an explosion," she said. "We didn't see the gun. Everybody just started running."