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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire in a Phoenix office building during a legal mediation meeting on Wednesday, shooting a lawyer and two other people before fleeing, officials said.
The three shooting victims were taken to the hospital where one was in extremely critical condition, police said. They said two other people were taken to hospital for "stress related symptoms."
Police evacuated the offices in central Phoenix and were searching for the gunman, according to Phoenix Police Department Sergeant Tommy Thompson.
Thompson said the gunman, described by police as a white man in his sixties with gray hair, had gone to the office block at a busy intersection in central Phoenix in the morning, argued with someone inside and then opened fire.
Local law firm Osborn Maledon said attorney Mark Hummels was shot during a mediation meeting at the office building, but did not say whether the shooting was linked to the mediation.
"Our partner, Mark Hummels, was representing a client in a mediation today when he was shot. We understand that other people also were injured," the firm said in a statement.
Hummels' mediation practice focuses on business disputes, real estate litigation and legal malpractice defense, according to the firm's website.
Frank Kirby, a financial planner who works in an office near the scene, told Reuters he was outside his building immediately after the incident and heard the gunman fire at someone in a white car.
That person then sped away in reverse as he sought to escape the gunfire, Kirby said, adding he was close enough to smell the gunpowder in the air.
"We hear a gunshot and then immediately we hear a car come roaring down that street. We look up and its coming backward down that road," Kirby told Reuters in a phone interview.
"He actually comes backwards, northbound on 16th street. He's going backward up 16th street," Kirby said. "He gets beyond my building just about even, spins around and takes off now going the proper direction."
Kirby said he did not witness the shooting at the office but saw two people being carried from the building on stretchers.
The shooting came on the same day the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings in Washington on possible gun control measures. Fears about gun violence have grown in the United States since a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.
Ambulances and dozens of police vehicles were at the office complex.
"Some say he left the building in a vehicle, and some say that he was still inside, so that's kind of where we are at," police spokesman James Holmes said.
Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles. Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Nick Zieminski and David Gregorio