NEW YORK–CNN staffers found themselves in the midst of a brutal murder when shots erupted outside the newsroom in Atlanta in front of dozens of witnesses.
CNN anchors and producers watched in horror as a man dragged a woman down a set of escalators in CNN Center in Atlanta and then shot her in the face right in front of glass double doors leading to the newsroom.
The man then stood over the woman, an employee of the adjacent Omni Hotel who appeared to be pregnant, and fired several more times before a Turner Broadcasting security guard shot the gunman.
The woman, identified as 22-year-old Clara Riddles, died soon after arriving at Grady Memorial Hospital. The man arrived in critical condition and underwent surgery.
CNN staffers fled from their desks as the shots rang out at about 1:30 p.m. and the newsroom was temporarily evacuated.
“I didn’t know whether to run from my seat,” said CNN.com anchor Nicole Lapin, whos desk is 10 feet from the door. “I was in the line of fire. My desk is now a crime scene.”
Another CNN employee captured the scene, including the last shots fired by the suspect, with a cell phone camera.
The incident, which Atlanta police called a “domestic disturbance” began minutes before when CNN staffers saw a man and a woman arguing on a higher level of CNN Center, an indoor mall that includes the Omni Hotel and a number of other stores and restaurants.
The gunman grabbed the woman by the hair and told one CNN employee “get out of my way” as he dragged her down a set of escalators that end at the door to the CNN newsroom. The CNN staffer ran to alert a security guard.
A struggle ensued at the bottom of the escalator and the man shot Riddles at point-blank range, and then at least two more times as she fell next to a planter in front of dozens of onlookers in the newsroom.
“Replaying it in my mind now, he didn’t seem agitated, wasn’t looking around like you would expect someone who’d just shot someone. He looked around almost casually,” said Brad Lendon, a CNN.com staffer.
A Turner Broadcasting guard identified as Capt. Odell Adams then shot the suspect and held him at gunpoint for several minutes until police arrived.
The CNN Center complex had been more crowded than usual due to the visitors for the NCAA Final Four, which was held in the adjacent Georgia Dome.