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HOUSTON (Reuters) - An armed space engineer killed a co-worker he had taken hostage, then himself, in an attack on Friday at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
Another hostage, a female co-worker, was found bound with duct tape, but unharmed, police said.
"Apparently there was some type of dispute between the suspect and the victim," Houston police chief Harold Hurtt said.
The incident occurred amid rising concerns about U.S. gun violence following the Monday attack at Virginia Tech university in which a student killed 32 people in the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
"As a result of the Virginia Tech shootings, we had reviewed our own (security) procedures here at the Johnson Space Center," center director Michael Coats told reporters.
"Of course, we never believed this could happen," he said.
Coats identified the shooter as Bill Phillips, who had worked at JSC for 12 years but was a contract worker employed by Pasadena, California-based Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.
"Up until recently, he's been a good employee," he said.
The dead co-worker was David Beverly, an engineer employed by NASA, Coats said. Both men were said to be in their 50s.
The incident began about 1:40 p.m. (1840 GMT) when, in the building where they worked, Phillips pulled out a gun and was heard firing at least two shots, police said.
Fran Crenshaw was taken hostage apparently only because she was nearby, Hurtt said. She was bound, but managed to get tape off her mouth and call NASA's emergency number, he said.
Workers in the building, which houses communications equipment, were quickly evacuated and heavily armed police moved in.
As they drew closer, they heard a shot and went in to find the gunman and his male hostage dead, said police spokesman Dwayne Ready.
"As our SWAT members made entry, they did indeed determine that the suspect shot himself one time to the head," Ready said.
"Also, on the same floor there was one other hostage that was shot. We believe that may have occurred in the early minutes of this whole ordeal."
Ready said police had tried to communicate with the gunman, but got no response.
On a table, he had left a list of names and numbers of people to be notified about his death, Hurtt said.
Police said Phillips used a snub-nosed revolver he had bought on March 19 at a local gun shop.
Building 44, where the shooting took place, is slightly separated from most of the space center -- a sprawling 1,600-acre (650-hectare) campus that is home to NASA's Mission Control and the center of training for the space agency's astronaut corps.
NASA officials said the incident did not affect operations, which include flight control for the International Space Station.
In February, in another unusual event for NASA, astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested in Florida on charges she assaulted a romantic rival. Nowak, who was based at JSC, was later fired from NASA and is awaiting trial in September.
Phillips, who had no family, lived near the space center in a one-story brick house, where the windows were shuttered and police peering inside said there was little furniture.
Neighbours described Phillips as friendly, but reserved.
"He was pretty much a loner. He was friendly, he'd wave at you, but I never saw anybody with him," said Kevin Rizer.
"There are only two states of being: Too much and not enough"
Isnt the war on drugs supposed to reduce harm? So far all i see are casualties.
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