An Alabama man went on a shooting spree Tuesday, killing 10 people — family members and apparent strangers — before turning the gun on himself, officials said.
By the time Michael McLendon ended his rampage, he had fatally shot his mother and set fire to her house, killed his grandparents, his aunt and uncle, the wife and child of a sheriff’s deputy, and three other people, according to the coroners of the two counties that the shooting spanned. “He was shooting at just ordinary people going about their business,” said Alabama state Sen. Harri Anne Smith. Smith represents Geneva County, where all but one of the victims were killed. Smith said she had been briefed about the incident by state and local law enforcement. By early Wednesday, authorities were still trying to piece together the chronology of events and the motive for McLendon’s actions. Though they have identified all the victims, they withheld releasing their names until they could notify family members. The shooting started about 4 p.m. CDT (5 p.m. Eastern) at a house that McLendon shared with his mother, Lisa, in the town of Kinston, near the Florida border in Coffee County. A passerby found the house on fire and alerted authorities. Inside, firefighters found the body of Lisa McLendon and four dogs, said county Coroner Robert Preachers. The mother had been shot, he said. The gunman then went east into Geneva County. There, he shot his grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt as they sat on a porch in the nearby town of Samson, said Geneva Coroner Max Motley.
Two Alabama towns hit in shooting spree
The wife of a sheriff’s deputy who lived in a house across the street was also killed, along with her toddler, Motley said. Both had been shot. A second child was airlifted to a hospital in Florida in critical condition, authorities said. “I can’t describe what happened, why it happened,” Geneva County Greg Ward told CNN affiliate WTVY. “It’s just a sad day for Geneva County.” Watch Sheriff Ward describe what happened » McLendon, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, allegedly also shot a man who lived in a mobile home in his family members’ yard, Motley said. At some point, the gunman headed down state Highway 52, firing at least seven bullets into a state trooper’s car. The trooper suffered minor injuries from shattered glass. Watch the aftermath of the shooting spree » The final two victims were a woman killed at a Big-Little Store service station off the highway and a man outside the Samson Pipe and Supply store, both apparently shot at random, authorities said. The gunman ended up at the Reliable Metal Products plant in Geneva, where police rammed his vehicle, forcing him to get out. He fired a 30-round burst with what appeared to be an M16, grazing Police Chief Frankie Lindsey with a bullet. Watch a timeline of the shootings » “Then the subject entered the business. Within minutes, shots were heard. … Law enforcement officers found him dead,” state police Cpl. Steve Jarrett said. The manufacturing plant is 12 miles from his mother’s house. Sheriff’s officials say the gunman was a former employee of Reliable Metal, CNN affiliate WEAR-TV reported.
Col. Christopher Murphy, head of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, called the southern Alabama shooting spree “the worst that DPS has a memory of.” Watch CNN’s Anderson Cooper talk about the investigation » Another mass killing occurred in southern Alabama in 2002, when Westley Devon Harris gunned down six members of his 16-year-old girlfriend’s family at their farm in Luverne. Harris was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in 2005.