Women killed in Florida yoga class were student, faculty member

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Two women killed by a gunman who burst into a yoga class at a Florida shopping center were named on Saturday as a student and faculty member from Florida State University.

Police who rushed to the Hot Yoga studio in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon after reports of gunfire found four other people with bullet wounds and the body of the 40-year-old shooter, Scott Beierle, who had apparently shot himself.

The bloodshed prompted the city’s mayor, Andrew Gillum, who is also Florida’s Democratic candidate for governor, to temporarily halt his campaign and return to the city.

Authorities said there were signs that members of the class had confronted Beierle after he opened fire inside the studio and then pistol-whipped one of them.

“There were indications that several people not only fought back but tried to save other people,” Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said at a news conference.

Detectives were looking for any links between the gunman and the victims, he said.

Two of the wounded remained in the hospital on Saturday in stable condition, police said.

One of the two women killed was identified as Nancy Van Vessem, 61, a member of the clerkship faculty at Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee. The other was named as Maura Binkley, a 21-year-old student at FSU.

Their deaths were “just devastating to the FSU family,” the university’s president, John Thrasher, wrote on Twitter.

Gillum said on Twitter that no act of gun violence was acceptable.

Tallahassee’s murder rate has been an issue in the governor’s race ahead of Tuesday’s election, with Gillum’s opponent, Republican former U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, accusing him of being weak on crime.

Citing court records, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported that Beierle had a history of arrests for grabbing women.

Among officials who went to the studio after the shooting was city commissioner Scott Maddox.

“In my public service career, I have had to be on some bad scenes. This is the worst. Please pray,” Maddox posted on Facebook.

Alex Redding, a patron at a nearby bar, told the Democrat that people came inside seeking assistance, saying a man had started shooting after acting strangely inside the yoga studio.

Other victims, barefoot from their class, came into the bar in shock and barely able to speak, except to say “shooter,” the newspaper reported.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Matthew Lewis)