Police in the area of northeastern Montgomery County after reports of shootings. (Dan Morse/The Washington Post)

(Update: Maryland man holds wife captive, storms neighbor’s home, kills three)

Three people were shot to death Monday in a house in northeastern Montgomery County, according to the county police chief.

A suspect later apparently shot himself to death in his own nearby house, the chief said. He was identified as Christopher W. Snyder, 41.

The shootings occurred in two houses located close to each other in the 22000 block of Brown Farm Way in the Brookeville area of the county, not far from the border with Howard County.

A motive was not formally confirmed by police, but the call that touched off the incident had reported a domestic dispute.

Based on the account given about 11:20 p.m. Monday by Chief J. Thomas Manger, the killings may have stemmed from an incident a day or two ago involving Snyder and his wife, who was not named. Manger said Snyder held his wife in their house over the weekend.

Seizing an opportunity to flee, he said, she went to the neighboring house on Brown Farm Way.

That, “I think,” Manger said, apparently “caused him to go” into that house. “

At least six people were in the house. Three were killed. Their names were not given. Manger said one was a resident, another was an out-of-town guest, and the third was someone doing work there.

Three people fled the house, the chief said. All were unharmed. One, according to the chief, was Snyder’s wife.

At some point after that, police determined that the suspect was not in the house where the killings occurred, but was in his own house across the street.

A standoff began during which police tried to negotiate by telephone with the suspect.

As Manger described events, it was at about 11 p.m. that police finally breached the door of the suspect’s house.

Manger said the suspect was on the phone at the time with negotiators. He asked over the phone whether they had broken open the door. Then the phone was hung up.

A single gunshot was heard. The suspect was found dead, Manger said, of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the decision to breach his front door.

Police had became aware of trouble on Brown Farm Way about 3:45 p.m. Monday by a calls describing a “possible domestic” disturbance at a home there. In the background, one call-taker heard what sounded like a gunshot, Manger said.

When police went to the house, they found the three bodies.

Police indicated that they had previous contacts with the suspect, in connection with various matters. The matters were not described immediately.

As the incident unfolded, residents of the area were told that they should take shelter within their homes. Roadblocks at key intersections kept others from reaching their homes.

Brown Farm Way is a narrow street with large and well spaced houses on either side. Broad expanses of lawn surround the houses, and the area is regarded as quiet and almost rural, particularly compared with the dense development in other parts of the county.

The houses in which the shootings occurred are at the end of the road, on a cul-de-sac, where the road terminates.

This story has been updated.

Clarence Williams and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.