By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A manufacturing plant employee in western Maryland worked a full shift Thursday before retrieving a gun from his car and shooting four co-workers, killing three of them, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

Authorities identified the suspect as 23-year-old Joe Louis Esquivel. He faces over two dozen charges including three counts of first- and second-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and a slew of assault and firearms-related offenses.

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Police were called to a shooting at the Columbia Machine plant in Smithsburg about 2:30 p.m., where they found an injured 42-year-old employee near the business and learned the suspect was gone, Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said Thursday.

Joe Louis Esquivel, 23, of Hedgesville, WV. Credit: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Esquivel allegedly left the building and retrieved a semi-automatic handgun from his vehicle before entering a break room and opening fire, the sheriff’s office said Friday.

Based on a description provided by responding officers, troopers tracked down the suspect’s vehicle near the corner of Mapleville and Mt. Aetna roads in Hagerstown and a confrontation ensued, Maryland State Police said. Esquivel allegedly opened fire at troopers, striking one of them, and he was shot when they returned fire.

Esquivel, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, was taken into custody and taken to a hospital for treatment. He is currently being held without bond by the Washington County Detention Center.

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The trooper, a 25-year veteran of the Maryland State Police, was treated for his injuries and released.

Sheriff Mullendore identified the victims killed as 50-year-old Mark Alan Frey, 31-year-old Charles Edward Minnick and 30-year-old Joshua Robert Wallace. It is unclear where at the plant the trio was found.

A search warrant was issued for the suspect’s West Virginia home, where more guns were found, officials said.

Smithsburg is a town in western Maryland with a population of about 3,000 about an hour and a half northwest of Baltimore City. The town is about 20 minutes east of Hagerstown, the seat of Washington County.

A vigil will be held Saturday in Smithsburg for the victims of the shooting.

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Ava-joye Burnett