STATELINE - An exchange of gunfire left one person dead and two Douglas County Sheriff's deputies injured Saturday afternoon inside Harrah's Lake Tahoe, authorities said.
Deputies were inside the casino investigating a report of a suspicious person when the incident happened shortly after 2 p.m. Witnesses said at least four shots were fired in a high-stakes area of the casino, which sits away from the main casino floor.
Two deputies were transported - one via ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, another via helicopter. Both deputies received non life-threatening injuries, Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said.
The area where the shooting happened, which is tucked away from the main casino area, was not occupied by many patrons at the time of the shooting, Pierini said.
The lone gunman was found dead at the scene. The man's identity, motive and the manner in which he died remains under investigation. No other injuries were reported. It is unknown whether the man fired on deputies first or whether the man died of gunfire from the deputies.
"Right now it's a puzzle and we have to work it out," Pierini said in a press conference.
Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Nelson was shot in the hand and hip and was flown to Washoe Medical Center in Reno. Deputy Erik Eissinger was shot in the torso area but the bullet was stopped because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, Pierini said. Both deputies have been on the force for about five years.
The suspect was in possession of a pistol or revolver, Pierini said.
He was described as being a white male, possibly 53 years old and from Southern California. A woman who was believed to be with the man was being questioned by investigators Saturday night.
Witnesses inside the casino at the time of the shooting reported dozens of patrons running for exits when shots were fired.
"I saw a group of four or five young people in their 20s and they all had this panicked look on their face," said Gary Mancebo, 50, of Stockton. He is in town coaching at a basketball tournament at South Tahoe High School and was nearby when the shooting occurred. "Then I heard one of them say 'There's a robbery, there's a robbery, let's get out of here.' Then everybody started running. I grabbed my wife and we went outside."
The crime scene was cordoned off, but the main casino area remained open Saturday night.
Jeff Wren and Jason Sakamoto, both 23 and from Sacramento, described the scene as frantic.
"I heard a pop, pop, pop and I looked to assess the situation - all I saw was a lot of people running for the door," Wren said.
"Everyone started running ... it was like a herd. At first I thought it was a bomb or a terrorist attack," Sakamoto said.