By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - A gunman opened fire inside an Indiana supermarket on Wednesday evening, killing two women - a shopper and an employee - before being shot dead in a shootout with police, authorities said.
Indiana State Police said the shooting happened at around 10 p.m. local time at an open but sparsely populated Martin's Super Market in Elkhart, a city of some 50,000 residents about 140 miles north of Indianapolis in the U.S. state.
"We believe it was a single shooter and he is dead," Indiana State Police spokesman Trent Smith told a news conference.
He referenced recent shootings in public places that have ignited a fierce national debate on gun control. On Tuesday, a 12-year-old boy wounded two students when he opened fire with a shotgun at a New Mexico middle school.
It was the second attack at a U.S. middle school in the past three months.
"There's not a day that goes by, it seems like anymore, where we're not learning of a school shooting or at a business ... we hope that this would never come to our home town and here it is," Smith said.
The three dead were believed to be a female store employee in her late teens or early 20s, a female shopper in her mid-40s, and the shooter, who was thought to be in his late teens or early 20s, Smith said.
Details such as what motivated the violence and whether there was any connection between the gunman and store employees were not immediately known, he said.
Police found a large knife and a semi-automatic handgun inside the store near the suspect, who was believed to live in the area, Smith said.
Police were withholding the suspect's name pending notification of his family.
Police entering the grocery store rushed toward the sound of gunfire, Smith said. They saw the shooter, his gun pointed at a person believed to be a supermarket employee's head, as they turned a corner of a food aisle. Police then killed the suspect in an exchange of gunfire.
Smith said the officers likely saved the person's life.
Martin's Super Markets, founded in 1947, operates 21 stores in Indiana and Michigan, according to its website.
"Thank you to our community for your thoughts and prayers tonight," the store said in a statement on its Facebook page.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, editing by Elizabeth Piper)