LAKE PARK — A man wielding a semiautomatic assault rifle went on a rampage at a tow yard Wednesday morning, wounding two employees and firing at a sheriff's deputy before the deputy shot him down in a brief gunfight, authorities said.
Edward F. Voltz Jr., 51, of suburban West Palm Beach twice drove to Lake Park Towing, at 803 13th St., to confront employees Wednesday, a Palm Beach County sheriff's spokesman said.
On his second visit, just after 9 a.m., Voltz told the owner that he needed to retrieve his daughter's medicine from her car, which had been towed to the yard after a crash Tuesday night. Voltz said that without the medicine, his daughter would die in three hours, said Lisa Hedrick, a dispatcher for the tow company.
Skeptical employees told him to come back with a driver license.
"We thought he was going back out for proof of ownership," Hedrick said. "Instead, he came back and started shooting."
In the moments that followed, Hedrick and her boss, Kathryn Gadoury, were wounded as they tried to flee the gunman, who squeezed off shots without saying a word, sheriff's officials said.
Both women were taken to nearby St. Mary's Medical Center, where Gadoury, 53, was treated for a gunshot wound to the hip. Hedrick was shot through the elbow. Both women were released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Voltz, riddled with bullets after a gunfight with a sheriff's deputy, also was taken to St. Mary's. He underwent emergency surgery and was expected to survive, sheriff's officials said.
Voltz was "heavily armed" when he returned to the tow company, said Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who would not say how many or what types of weapons Voltz carried.
When Voltz started shooting, Hedrick said, she huddled under a desk with Gadoury, a truck driver and another employee.
"I lost count after 15," Hedrick said. "He finished off one clip and reloaded the second."
Employees dialed 911 as the company truck driver retrieved a handgun. He fired at Voltz, Bradshaw said, but it wasn't clear whether any of those shots hit the gunman.
Next door, Jill Chisholm, who manages the office at Ledbetter Masonry, heard five or six sharp cracks and looked out the window.
"I saw the shooter come out to get in his vehicle," said Chisholm, who described the gunman as a light-haired, scruffy-looking man who carried an AK-47-style rifle. "Then he walked back in, and I heard some more gunshots, but they were a different sound, maybe three or four."
As Voltz walked back to his blue Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle, the deputy drove up, Chisholm said.
The deputy saw Voltz carrying a pistol and the assault rifle and watched as he leaned into the SUV and dropped the handgun, Bradshaw said. Still standing by the window, just 50 yards away, Chisholm said, she saw the deputy grab the gunman.
"The guy fell to the ground," Chisholm said. "He has the big gun in his hand, and he shoots at the officer. The officer fires back.
"Then the gentleman got up, and he went to the back of the vehicle. The officer went around the driver side of the vehicle, and they were still exchanging gunfire.
"I saw the shooter with the blood on him, and then he went down to the ground, but he was still shooting. There were a lot of shots."
When the shooting stopped, Chisholm said, she looked up to see Voltz on the ground, the deputy standing over him.
"The suspect pointed the rifle at him," Bradshaw said. "The bottom line is the deputy defended himself."
The deputy, whose name was not released Wednesday, has been with the sheriff's office since October 2005 and was assigned to patrol the Lake Park district, sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said. He was placed on paid administrative leave, routine after police shootings.
On Wednesday afternoon, Tom Gadoury, 25, who co-owns the business with his mother, stopped by the yard to take stock. He said doctors released Kathryn Gadoury with a bullet embedded in her hip. She declined to talk about the shooting.
"Right now she's in a lot of pain, and she's trying to be comfortable," he said, adding that doctors will decide in the next few days whether to remove the bullet.
Bob Miller, a family friend who said he got out of the towing business two years ago because he was tired of dealing with angry people, described Kathy Gadoury as "really tough" but "a real sweetheart."
Authorities still were investigating what set Voltz off. A husband and father, he never had been arrested in Florida, state records show. His wife filed for divorce in June 2007, and proceedings are pending, according to court documents.
Annette Voltz, a nurse, said she has not seen her husband since August 2007. She said she didn't think their daughter was sick.
Out of the hospital, Hedrick, the dispatcher, returned to the tow yard Wednesday afternoon. In the future, she said, "the customer's always right."
Staff writers Bill DiPaolo and Sonja Isger and staff researcher Niels Heimeriks contributed to this story.