By Robert Melnbardis
MONTREAL (Reuters) - At least one gunman dressed in a black trenchcoat opened fire in a downtown Montreal college on Wednesday, and early reports said four people had died.
Students fled in panic from the building, and eyewitnesses reported blood on its entry steps, and inside the cafeteria where many of the shots were fired.
"It was the most scary thing that has ever happened to me," student Michael Boyer told CBC Television. "We ran out of the building as a SWAT team was coming in. They were screaming 'Where is he? Where is he?' And when you have 20 police running at you with guns you really know that your life is in danger."
Hospital officials told local television stations that 12 people had been injured, and six were in critical condition.
RDI Television quoted unofficial sources as saying that one gunman had turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide, while a second had been shot and killed by police. This could not be confirmed, and some police officers at the scene said they suspected there was only a lone gunman.
"A suspect has been neutralized, which means he is not shooting any more," said Ian LaFreniere, a police spokesman.
The shooting took place in and around Dawson College, a school with some 10,000 students between the ages of 16 and 19 in the heart of Montreal, Canada's second biggest city.
It triggered memories of the 1989 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, where a gunman killed 14 women before killing himself, as well as of the 1999 Columbine massacre in Colorado, where two teenagers killed 12 other students and a teacher before killing themselves.
The Ecole Polytechnique gunman, Marc Lepine, 25, left behind a three-page letter claiming that feminists had ruined his life and naming 19 high profile Quebec women he wanted to kill.
Robert Soroka, a professor at Dawson College, told Reuters he was in his fourth floor office when heard shots being fired. He immediately ran down the hall and told teachers to keep their students in classrooms and close the doors.
"This could have been a very bad situation, if it had happened five minutes later when the students would have been exiting their classrooms during the changeover," he said.
Soroka said the shooting began at 12:45 and shots continued to be fired for about 30 minutes. He said he heard at least 20 shots.
I hope none of my friends were killed.