Gunman kills 7 in Honolulu office and then escapes

A GUNMAN opened fire on an office building in Honolulu yesterday morning, killing at least seven employees of the Xerox company before making his escape in a company van, according to initial reports. It was the latest in a string of fatal shootings that have plagued offices and schools across America in the past few months.

Initial details were sketchy, but a local radio station in the Hawaiian capital said that the gunman opened fire shortly after 8am local time at the building on North Nimitz Highway, a few miles away from the centre of town. Ambulance dispatchers reported seven dead.

The seven were found dead at the office building on North Nimitz Highway, a few miles from downtown, after the shootings that erupted shortly after 8 a.m. (1800 GMT).

"There are seven fatalities in the building, in various areas of the building," Richard Soo of the city fire department told MSNBC. Ambulance teams that went into the building found a "grisly" scene, he said.

Witnesses said a suspect fled in a Xerox company van. Police said the van later was found abandoned, according to broadcast reports.

Soo said the man was described as an Asian male.Police could not immediately locate the suspect, but they evacuated another Xerox building in downtown Honolulu as a precaution.

The site of the shootings is quite a distance away from the Waikiki area where tourists go.

It has been just six weeks since a deranged loner in Fort Worth, Texas, stormed into a baptist church during an evening prayer service and opened fire, killing seven people before turning his gun on himself. In June, a frustrated daytrader in Atlanta went on the rampage, killing 12 people in all including his own family and customers at a brokerage firm.

Some of this attackers have been motivated by hate, including a white supremacist from Washington state who opened fire on a group of children at a Jewish Community Centre in suburban Los Angeles before shooting a postman. And others have involved schoolchildren, notably the assault on Columbine High School in Colorado in April in which 15 people died, including the two attackers.

The shootings have triggered an anxious cultural debate in which Hollywood, the gun lobby and the amorality of corporate downsizing have all come under scrutiny. President Clinton has urged Congress to tighten gun controls and asked the entertainment industry to be more responsible about its marketing of violent images.