In this affluent suburb of Washington DC, shootings are a rare occurrence. Gun laws are so strict here that, when a boy brought an unloaded BB-gun this week to Westland Middle School, he was immediately expelled and taken to the police station. No one talks about guns—in terms of owning one, anyway—and the state has among the strictest handgun laws in the country.
But Bethesda was the site of two incidents today (May 6) in which unknown gunmen shot and killed two people and seriously wounded two more. In the first incident, a woman was shot and killed outside a Giant supermarket. A short while later, a man fled after shooting and killing a man and wounding another man and a woman in the parking lot of Westfield Montgomery Mall. According to local press reports, witnesses to the second incident said the man first shot the woman after speaking with her briefly, then fired and hit the two men.
Police were investigating whether there is any link between these incidents and another nearby murder on May 5. In that case, police allege that 62-year-old Eulalio Tordil shot and killed his estranged wife, Gladys Tordil, 44. He was arrested this afternoon, after the two shootings in Bethesda.
With it unclear who was responsible for today’s shootings, and with the incidents coming within the context of dozens of massacres in schools, shops, and workplaces across the country, local officials reacted with extreme caution: All schools in the county were temporarily put on lockdown (the lockdown was lifted on all but five schools at the time of this writing) and police briefly established positions in some intersections.
As is the case in many of the places where shootings around the US have taken place, this is a city with an atmosphere of immunity—only one homicide is on record from 2014, the most recent year for which there is public information, and none the year before.