(CNN) -- A Salvation Army major was shot dead in front of his three children on Christmas Eve in North Little Rock, Arkansas, authorities said.
Maj. Philip Wise, 40, was gunned down Thursday. He was found lying by the back entrance of a Salvation Army facility, said police spokesman Sgt. Terry Kuykendall.
Wise apparently dropped two bell ringers off at home and returned to the Salvation Army building with his three children, ages 4, 6 and 8. Two men carrying handguns approached them and demanded money before shooting Wise, Kuykendall said.
The suspects fled on foot.
Police received a 911 call at 4:17 p.m. Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said Wise's wife, Cindy, made the call from inside the building.
"My heart goes out for the family, losing their dad, and I guess having to witness it during this time of year," Camper told CNN affiliate KARK. "It's definitely going to be hard on the kids."
Wise had been active in the Salvation Army for 16 years and was assigned to the Baring Cross neighborhood of North Little Rock for the past three years.
Area Commander Maj. Harvey Johnson said the Salvation Army will hold a news conference on Christmas Day.
"We would hope that whoever the perpetrators are would step forward," he said.
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. It is perhaps best known for its donation centers and bell ringers who collect money for the needy during the holiday season.