ARKABUTLA, MISSISSIPPI (AP) – A lone gunman killed six people including his ex-wife and stepfather on Friday at multiple locations in a tiny rural community in northern Mississippi, the sheriff said, leaving investigators searching for clues to what motivated the rampage.
Armed with a shotgun and two handguns, 52-year-old Richard Dale Crum, who a family friend said had a history of mental illness, opened fire at about 11am and killed a man in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck parked outside a convenience store in Arkabutla, near the Tennessee state line, Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance said.
Deputies were working the crime scene when a second 911 call alerted authorities to another shooting a few miles 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.
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 in 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, 52, 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 an attorney who could speak on his behalf. That initial murder charge was for the killing of Chris Eugene Boyce, 59, the man 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 he escaped unharmed.
Deputy Tate County Coroner Ernie Lentz identified the others killed as Debra Crum, 60; Charles Manuel, 76; John Rorie, 59; George McCain, 73; and Lynda McCain, 78. Lentz also said Boyce was from Lakeland, Florida. Ethan Cash, who lives near the store, told WREG-TV he heard a gunshot from inside his house.
“I had just woken up and I look back here, and I see him walking back here with a shotgun,” he said.
The killings stunned residents of Arkabutla, home to 285 people and located about 50 kilometres south of Memphis, Tennessee.
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 being sought, according to the Coldwater Elementary School Facebook page.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were mourning the six victims and praying for the survivors.
He urged Congress to act now on gun law reforms to address what he called “an epidemic” of gun violence.