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FSU holds vigil for faculty member, student killed in yoga shooting

2 dead identified; 5 wounded, shooter killed himself, police say

Dr. Nancy Vessem, Maura Brinkley died in shooting. Vessem was faculty member at FSU, Brinkley was student
Dr. Nancy Vessem, Maura Brinkley died in shooting. Vessem was faculty member at FSU, Brinkley was student

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two people were shot to death and five others wounded at a yoga studio in Florida's capital by a gunman who then killed himself, authorities said. 

The two slain Friday included a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials.

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo told reporters Friday night that the man shot six people and pistol-whipped another after walking into the studio, which is part of a small Tallahassee shopping center. The suspect then fatally shot himself, DeLeo said.

Early Saturday morning, the Tallahassee Police Department identified the shooter as Scott Paul Beierle, 40. 

Scott Beierle

The department identified the two people killed as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21.

Van Vessem was an internist who served as chief medical director for Capital Health Plan, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported.

The Democrat also reported that Florida State University President John Thrasher said Van Vessem and Binkley had ties to the university.

"To lose one of our students and one of our faculty members in this tragic and violent way is just devastating to the Florida State University family. We feel this loss profoundly and we send our deepest sympathies to Maura's and Nancy's loved ones while we pray for the recovery of those who were injured," Thrasher said in a statement.

Capital Health Plan issued a statement praising Van Vessem. 

"As CHP's longtime chief medical director, Nancy has been a guiding, visionary force in our daily work to serve the wellness and health care needs of thousands of families in this community. Her dedication, caring, leadership, humanity, and experience made her one of the most respected, inspiring, and accomplished medical professionals in the state and country. Our hearts are filled with sorrow and prayers for her family. We all have been so blessed to have Nancy in our lives," the company said.

DeLeo said the shooter acted alone and authorities are investigating possible motives. He declined to say what kind of gun the shooter had.

"We're all very saddened and shocked by the events that occurred, but it's important that people understand that there is no immediate threat outside of what has already occurred this evening," DeLeo said. 

Melissa Hutchinson said she helped treat a "profusely" bleeding man who rushed into a bar after the incident. She said three people from the studio ran in, and they were told there was an active shooter.

"It was a shocking moment something happened like this," Hutchinson said.

The people who came in were injured, including the bleeding man who was pistol-whipped while trying to stop the shooter. They told her the shooter kept coming in and out of the studio. When he loaded his gun, people started pounding the studio's windows to warn people.

City Commissioner Scott Maddox said on Facebook, "In my public service career I have had to be on some bad scenes. This is the worst. Please pray."

Neighborhood resident Elle Welling said she saw at least three people loaded into ambulances as she was leaving a liquor store across the street.

"You don't think about this in Tallahassee and now you have to," said Welling, 26.

The plaza is home to popular restaurants, a jewelry store, a framing shop, a hair salon and other businesses.

Erskin Wesson, 64, said he was eating dinner with his family at a restaurant located below the yoga studio when they heard the gunshots above them.

"We just heard 'pow, pow, pow, pow,'" Wesson said. "It sounded like a limb falling on a tin roof and rolling."

The restaurant's owner came by a short time later, asking if anyone was a doctor, Wesson said. His step-daughter is an emergency room nurse and helped paramedics for about an hour, he said.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, broke off the campaign trail to return to Tallahassee. He earlier appeared at a campaign event with former President Barack Obama.

Late Friday night, Gillum told reporters near the crime scene that he had made hospital visits to two people wounded at the yoga studio. The mayor said they were in good spirits despite their injuries.

Gillum asked residents to pray for the survivors and those who were killed.

"We all feel a sense of added vulnerability" because of the shooting, the mayor said.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, called DeLeo and the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get details of the shooting.

"I will remain in constant communication with law enforcement. We have offered state assistance," Scott tweeted.

Tallahassee's crime rate has been an issue in the governor's race. Gillum's opponent, Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, has called the capital Florida's most crime-ridden city. 

FSU plans campus vigil in wake of shooting

Florida State University President John Thrasher sent the following message to the FSU community:

My heart is filled with sadness following the horrific shooting that took place in Tallahassee on Friday. Although this shooting happened off campus, it has deeply touched the Florida State University family with two deaths and several injuries. To lose a faculty member and a student and have others injured in this senseless and violent way is absolutely devastating.

While we mourn this tragedy, we are awaiting further details from the Tallahassee Police Department. We understand that this attack is having ripple effects throughout our community, and we are providing support and comfort to the students, families and friends of all those affected.

In the wake of this gut-wrenching news, I know many of us are feeling a range of emotions, including shock, anger and sadness. Please remember that you are not alone. Counselors are available to help us as we struggle to comprehend this tragedy. If your student needs assistance, please encourage them to call (850) 644-TALK (8255). 

In the coming days and weeks, please continue to pray for the loved ones of those who lost their lives and for those who are still recovering from their injuries. It is times like this when I know our entire FSU family can come together in love and peace. We will hold a campus-wide vigil at 5 p.m. Sunday at Langford Green to support and comfort each other.