The gunman, a Pennsylvania reservist from the 307th Military Police Unit in the Western Pennsylvania town of New Kensington, arrived on the base this week after being called up, but was relieved of duty Thursday. He was preparing to leave the base about 12:30 p.m. yesterday when the shooting started, military officials said.
The base has been under heavy guard since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has been closed to the public for the first time since 1942, the officials said.
Accompanied by a military police officer and a second soldier, the gunman was emptying his locker when he grabbed his personal .38-caliber revolver and fired at one of the soldiers - Master Sgt. Anthony Young, a resident of Wyncote, Montgomery County, from the 1079th Garrison Support Unit - wounding him in the leg and chest, authorities said.
Officials said the .38-caliber revolver was contraband.
The gunman then fled the barracks while trying to reload his weapon and encountered Sgt. First Class Patrick Witcup, also of the 307th, authorities said.
The two wrestled on the ground, during which the gunman shot Witcup in the shoulder and then grabbed his 9mm handgun, authorities said. Witcup survived a second shot to the chest because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, they said.
The gunman then fled the base in a Department of Defense police vehicle, authorities said.
"This was a unique situation with an individual who apparently had a problem," said Stephen Melly, Fort Dix's public-safety director. The gunman had been dismissed after military officials noted "irregular behavior." Officials would not elaborate.
The manhunt begins
After the shooting began, military officials immediately notified state and local police, who began a manhunt, authorities said.
Soon after the suspect fled the base, police officers in Chesterfield spotted the Department of Defense vehicle on Old York Road in the Crosswicks section of the township. They gave chase - one police car apparently flipped over during the pursuit - but lost sight of the gunman.
The suspect then surprised two other Chesterfield officers who were searching for him in a wooded area of the township. He charged out of the woods, police said, shooting and wounding Chesterfield Police Officer Kyle Wilson and fleeing in the officer's police sport-utility vehicle.
He was next spotted by Chesterfield police on Route 206. Mansfield Township police joined in the chase, following him into the Columbus Farmers Market in Springfield Township and cornering him behind a red, barn-like building called Produce Row about 2:30 p.m., authorities said.
Surrounded by Mansfield police officers, the gunman jumped out of the car, grabbed an employee of Produce Row as a hostage, and began shooting at the officers.
Police held their fire, authorities said.
Then the gunman's gun jammed, and as he tried to clear it, the hostage broke free and escaped, authorities said.
Exchange of gunfire
Two Mansfield police officers traded gunfire with the gunman, during which the reservist was shot and killed. Mansfield Police Lt. William Kerr was also wounded.
"Police were running all over the place, and it was just terrible," said Marie Pierce of Willingboro, who was having lunch with a friend at the farmers market when she looked out the window and saw a man lying on the ground.
"It was very frightening," she said. "I didn't know whether they were real cops or guys in [police] uniforms."
Liz Stolzfus, who owns Stolzfus Barbeque at the market, said that after she heard the shots, police officers told workers to evacuate the building, and that she and about two dozen other people were escorted outside.
"Someone came running in and saying, 'Everyone out,' " said George Hege, 62, an employee at Kollector's Choice. "They were here awful fast - police, military, helicopters."
Wilson was reported in good condition at Capital Health System's Fuld Campus in Trenton, and Kerr was reported in stable condition at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden.
Witcup was listed in stable condition at the Fuld Campus. Young was in Cooper Hospital, which refused to give his condition last night.
Although the shooting spree had no apparent link to terrorism, the FBI was called in to participate in the investigation, New Jersey State Police said.
For most of the afternoon yesterday, dozens of marked and unmarked police cars surrounded the normally placid grounds around the farmers market, whose marquee reads "God Bless America."
Shoppers and employees of the market appeared to be in shock. Many tried to pack up as quickly as possible and leave for home.
"We were just enjoying ourselves, eating and talking," said Pierce, who goes to the market twice a week. "It was just very frightening."
Vicki McClure's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Joseph A. Gambardello and suburban staff writers Will Van Sant and Nedra Lindsey contributed to this article.