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US police seek answers as man slaughters 9 in shooting spree

AUTHORITIES were working yesterday to learn why a gunman went off on a rampage and killed at least nine people in rural Alabama in the United States. Shocked, grieving residents hoped the answers weren't lost when he killed himself.

Tuesday's shootings in an area near the Florida border were believed to be the work of Michael McLendon, who lived with his mother and once worked at a local metal plant.

The bloodshed began when McLendon burned down his mother's house in Kinston, Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers said. Authorities found Lisa McLendon's body inside, but they have not determined how she died or whether she was a 10th victim of her son's spree.

McLendon then drove 19 kilometers southeast to Samson, where he claimed nine victims, including four members of his family.

The rampage ended another 12 miles farther east in Geneva at the metal plant where McLendon worked until 2003. After a shootout with police, McLendon killed himself.

Investigators declined to comment on a motive for the shootings, in which at least four other people were injured, including a child. The victims' names have not been released.

"He cleaned his family out," Preachers said. "We don't know what triggered it."

Samson Mayor Clay King said he had known McLendon all his life and could not say what triggered the shootings.

McLendon's exact age wasn't released, but some authorities estimated he was in his late 20s.

"If you would have asked me two days ago if he was capable of this, I would have said certainly not," King said early yesterday.

Five people were killed on the porch in Samson, along with a 74-year-old woman next door, said Kirke Adams, district attorney for Geneva and Dale counties.

Four of the six killed were related to McLendon. A four-month-old girl was the only survivor from the porch and was being treated at a Florida hospital.

The two unrelated victims on the porch were the wife and 18-month-old child of a Geneva County sheriff's deputy. They had stopped by the home to visit.

McLendon then drove around Samson, shooting out his car window, killing three more people seemingly at random.

Police pursued McLendon to Geneva's Reliable Metal Products, where he got out of his car and fired at officers with his automatic weapon, wounding Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey. He then walked inside and killed himself.

Alabama Public Safety spokesman Kevin Cook said that McLendon resigned from his job at the plant in 2003 and it was unclear what kind of work, if any, he had been doing since.

A person who answered the phone at the plant said no one could talk about the shooting.


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