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Gunman kills three at Pennsylvania town meeting

A gunman has killed at least three people when he opened fire at a municipal meeting in a small town in the US state of Pennsylvania. The gunman was captured by a local official.

The attack took place on Monday evening at a monthly meeting of municipal supervisors in Ross Township in Monroe County. About 18 people, including officials and residents, were inside the municipal building.

As well as three fatalities, four people were taken to hospital. According to a local affiliate of the broadcaster NBC, the gunman was also wounded by his own weapon when grabbed and captured by a senior official.

Monroe County police declined initially to comment on a possible motive for the attack. The news agency AP said the gunman, the 59-year-old suspect, had been embroiled in a dispute with township officials over the possible condemnation of his unkempt property.

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Shooting at town meeting

The gunman reportedly shot through plaster board walls into the venue before forcing his way into the room, where he continued shooting.

Monroe County emergency management director Guy Miller said that the gunman appeared to be "shooting randomly."

The local newspaper Pobcono Record said its reporter Chris Reber escaped from the building and saw the gunman, who was wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt, return to his car to get another gun.

Bullets penetrated room

It quoted Reber as saying the first sign of trouble was when bullets penetrated the room, with "plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls."

"I ran out after the first round of shooting. I dropped to the floor. That's what everyone did. ... Then it stopped and I crawled out the side door," Reber told his newspaper.

"I heard more than 10 shots. It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers. That's what everyone said."

The meeting had been scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. local time (2300 GMT). Emergency calls were received 20 minutes later.

The gunman was later said to be in state police custody while being treated in hospital.

Ross Township, which lies about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Philadelphia, has about 5,500 residents.

rc/ipj (AP/AFP)

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