Ex-wife, stepfather of alleged gunman among those killed
A gunman killed six people on Friday at multiple locations in a tiny rural community in northern Mississippi, its sheriff said, leaving investigators searching for clues as to what motivated the shocking rampage.
Among those killed were the ex-wife and stepfather of 52-year-old Richard Dale Crum, a suspect in custody.
Deputies were working the crime scene at a store in Arkabutla on Friday morning when a second 911 call alerted authorities to another shooting a few kilometres away. After arriving at a home, they found a woman, whom the sheriff identified as Crum's ex-wife, shot dead and her current husband wounded.
Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance said deputies caught up with Crum outside his own home and arrested him. Behind the residence, they found two handymen slain by gunfire — one on the road, another in an SUV. Inside a neighbouring home, they discovered the bodies of Crum's stepfather and his stepfather's sister.
"Everybody has crime, and from time to time we have violent crime, but certainly nothing of this magnitude," Lance said in an interview. He added: "Without being able to say what triggered this, that's the scary part."
Crum was jailed without bond on a single charge of capital murder, and Lance said investigators were working to bring additional charges. It was not immediately known if Crum had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
That initial murder charge was for the killing of Chris Eugene Boyce, 59, who was shot outside the store. Boyce's brother was in the truck with him at the time and fled, according to the sheriff. Lance added that Crum chased the brother through a wooded area before the man escaped unharmed.
"I heard the gunshot from inside my house," Ethan Cash, who lives near the store, told WREG-TV. "I had just woken up and I look back here, and I see dude walking back here with a shotgun."
Cash said he went to the scene and found one person who had been shot. He said he checked for a pulse but found none.
In the lobby of the sheriff's office, Norma Washington told The Associated Press that Chris Boyce was her nephew and he was from Florida. She said he and the brother, Doug, who lives in Alaska, had been in town cleaning up a property they inherited from their deceased uncle.
"I lost my brother, and now this one," Washington said. "This has been something else."
It was unclear whether Crum knew either of the brothers.
The killings stunned residents of Arkabutla, home to 285 people and located about 50 kilometres south of Memphis, Tenn. It's the hometown of famed actor James Earl Jones, and nearby Arkabutla Lake is a popular fishing and recreational destination.
An elementary school and a high school in nearby Coldwater both went on lockdown while the suspect was sought, according to the Coldwater Elementary School Facebook page. A short time later, a second post on the page said the lockdown had been lifted and "all students and staff are safe."
Arkabutla resident April Wade, who grew up in Coldwater, said both are small communities where most people know each other, "but if you don't, you know somebody who knows somebody."
Speaking from a local tire store in the afternoon, Wade said she and her husband were aware of the shootings but had not heard the names of the suspect or victims.
"I think it's crazy," Wade said. "You do not expect something like that to happen so close to home."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents were providing assistance to the sheriff's department and state investigators.
The sheriff, who has lived in the area his entire life and served in law enforcement for 25 years, said he could recall no prior problems with Crum.
The shootings are the first mass killings in the United States since Jan. 23, which saw the last of six in a three-week period, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database. It defines a mass killing as four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator.
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