A man who apparently had just lost his job at a small business in Minneapolis' Bryn Mawr neighborhood returned to the building Thursday afternoon and opened fire, killing the company's founder and three others and wounding four others before taking his own life.

Two other company executives, director of operations John Souter and production manager Eric Rivers, were in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center. Hospital officials said one other victim was in critical condition and a fourth was in satisfactory condition. Those two wounded victims have not been identified.

Police swarmed to the chaotic scene, which unfolded just after 4:30 p.m. inside Accent Signage Systems, 2322 Chestnut Av. W. One of the dead was company founder Reuven Rahamim, a business associate of Rahamim said late Thursday.

As those from the neighborhood who heard the shots fled in fear or gathered nearby seeking information, officers from many law enforcement agencies, including SWAT team specialists, swarmed to the scene. About an hour into the incident, scanner reports came that the shooter was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in the building's basement. Although his name was not released or confirmed by police or the company, sources identified him as Andrew J. Engeldinger, 36. Late Thursday, the south Minneapolis house Engeldinger owns and occupies was searched by rifle-toting law enforcement personnel wearing body armor.

Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Kris Arneson told reporters at a 7:30 p.m. news conference near the scene that "several are dead," but said she couldn't verify an exact number. She said officers did not exchange gunfire with the shooter, whose body was found in a warehouse on the property. Early Friday, police confirmed that four people and the gunman were dead.

Police declined to identify any of those killed or injured, saying names will be released by the Hennepin County medical examiner. Police also declined to say whether the suspected shooter was a current or former employee of Accent Signage.

Arneson said someone called 911 from the business at 4:35 p.m. and said shots were being fired. The first officers on the scene got inside and got some people out, she said.

"This is something we see on the news in other parts of the country, not here in Minneapolis," she noted.

Nationwide, 458 people died last year in work-related homicides, according to preliminary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2009, that number was 521.

Company spokeswoman Wendy Khabie said employees are "all shaken up."

'We froze and ... just ran'

Neighborhood residents gathered to share information as the sunny afternoon gave way to cool evening. Resident Heidi Pierce said a police officer told her several people had been shot and that the shooter was a man with a ponytail who was a disgruntled former employee.

South High student Marques Jones, 17, said he was having his senior pictures taken at the old Glenwood Inglewood water plant about a quarter-mile north of Accent Signage when he and the photographer heard gunshots.

"We heard probably five [shots]," Jones said. "They were loud. Loud enough to make you jump. We froze and [then] just ran for our cars."

Brandon Bell said he was on a sidewalk that runs along Bassett Creek just opposite the business when he heard two shots.

Becky Ridgeway said she was driving on Plymouth Avenue N. when she saw several Minneapolis police cars pull out of the Fourth Precinct station and head toward the scene. She said she followed and got out of her car at Chestnut to get a better look.

"I saw a police officer behind a tree," Ridgeway said. "He started yelling at me to turn around and get out" of there. She said she saw two ambulances leave the scene as a third arrived.

Several Hennepin County sheriff's deputies with rifles trained on the building stood on a bridge over Penn and 1 1/2 Avenues N. Dozens of people looked on from the foot of the bridge.

Tracey Pyscher, who lives nearby, was out for an afternoon walk when she saw police cars gathered near the business. "The police were standing behind their vehicles and were pointing their rifles at the business," she said.

Local activist and anti-violence activist KG Wilson said police told him they had found the shooter dead of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

As the incident unfolded during rush hour, exits leading off Interstate 394 were closed, slowing traffic.

An innovative business

Accent Signage, founded in 1984 by Rahamim, creates interior signs for companies and industries. Business associate Michael Allshouse said he heard about Rahamim's death from people associated with the company.

Allshouse, who works for another sign company, has known Rahamim for 18 years and worked with him on several projects. Rahamim not only was a successful businessman but an inventor, Allshouse said. One of his patents is for a system that puts Braille onto the signs and placards at hotels. "He built a very successful sign company," Allshouse said.

Accent is a small company with employees who all knew one another. "They were very tight," Allshouse said. And Rahamim knew them all.

"He was a very good and generous man," Allshouse said. "He was always willing to step up and help out. He was generous with his employees and their families."

Daniel Kantor, the owner of a design firm, had planned to pick up some work at the sign fabricating company on Thursday afternoon. "It was 3:30 and I decided I didn't want to fight the traffic," he said. "I'm so glad I decided not to."

But Kantor was concerned about the people he's come to know at Accent. "They're wonderful people. They are the salt-of-the-earth human beings who are a joy to work with," he said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said he and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison recently visited Accent Signage because it was held up as a national model for exporting practices. Rybak said he'd been assured that the surviving employees were "together and being cared for."

"We are deeply sorry about what has happened here," he said, adding that it was "a horrible tragedy."

Gov. Mark Dayton condemned "this senseless violence," adding, "There is no place for it anywhere in Minnesota. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the innocent people killed or wounded."

Staff writers Matt McKinney and Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. mckinney@startribune.com • 612-673-7329 nicole.norfleet@startribune.com • 612-673-4495