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Investigators Working To Piece Together What Happened At Florida Yoga Studio Shooting


And now to Florida, where we're just starting to piece together what happened when a gunman opened fire with a handgun inside a yoga studio in Tallahassee last Friday. He killed two women and injured five others before killing himself. His motive still remains unclear. Karl Etters covers breaking news for the Tallahassee Democrat. He was one of the first reporters on the scene. Welcome.

KARL ETTERS: Hi, Ailsa. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: Can you just first walk us through what happened early Friday evening? A hot yoga class had just started, right?

ETTERS: Yeah. So they have a 5:30 class that was just getting started. And the best we know right now, Scott Beierle, the suspect - the gunman in this case, walked into the class and was posing as a customer prior to the class sort of getting started and just started opening fire without warning while the class was beginning.

CHANG: And what can you tell us about the people who were killed?

ETTERS: Dr. Nancy Van Vessem was really well-known in our community in the medical field. She worked at the College of Medicine at Florida State University, was well-revered across town, across many different facets of our community. Maura Brinkley (ph), the young 21-year-old girl, was a student at FSU. Obviously they were there to enjoy a little relaxation time in the yoga studio.

CHANG: So where does the investigation stand now? What are investigators focusing on?

ETTERS: So with no known connections to anyone that was in that yoga class or the studio itself, one of the things they're going to be looking at is sort of his wide-ranging digital footprints. Beierle had a website that he ran, a series of videos in which he described himself as misogynistic and was - you know, sort of lamented about women. They've finished search warrants of his house in Deltona and a hotel room here in Tallahassee where he was staying.

And really what they're going to hone in on since there is no direct apparent connection is what they gather from, you know, documents, computer Internet searches, his academic records, his cellphone. All that stuff is really being meticulously cataloged. And investigators think that's going to be where they're going to find out how he picked Tallahassee.

CHANG: I understand that according to police records, the gunman had a history of harassing women. Can you tell me a little more about that?

ETTERS: Mr. Beierle was arrested twice, once in 2012 and once in 2016, for grabbing the butts of young women on campus at Florida State and at his apartment complex, basically made some inappropriate comments to both of them and ended their interactions with I guess grabbing them, which resulted in battery charges. Both of those cases, the charges were dropped by prosecutors. Also today, we've learned this morning that he was fired as a substitute teacher in Volusia County in May of this year after he was accused of touching a female student.

CHANG: It's been a few days since these two women were killed. How has the community been remembering them?

ETTERS: Well, it's been a pretty somber few days here in Tallahassee. I know Saturday, after the shooting, there was a yoga class on a street in downtown Tallahassee and, you know, mats everywhere, people stretching, people crying, hugging. There was people playing guitar. And I think it was just cathartic for people to be out there. And yesterday at Florida State University, there was a candlelight vigil. Both the victims that were killed had connections to the university. And that also was somber. I've never been in a group of 300, 400, 500 people where you could hear a pin drop even after the event was over.

CHANG: Karl Etters bringing us up to speed on the investigation into the shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee last Friday. He's the breaking news reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat. Thank you very much.

ETTERS: Thanks for having me, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEOLA BEAMER'S "'IMI AU LA 'OE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.