SAMSON, Alabama (Reuters) - U.S. authorities trying to piece together why a man killed 10 people in the worst rampage in Alabama’s history focused on Wednesday on the grudges that he bore.
Michael McLendon killed his mother, grandmother, uncle, two cousins and five others including an 18-month-old girl in a spree on Tuesday that bore the hallmarks of a planned attack.
In his bedroom, authorities found three lists that included details on people he believed had wronged him. Though none of the people who died were on the lists, they provided clues to his state of mind.
“You kill the people you mean to kill, the worst first,” said Gary McAliley, the district attorney in Coffee County, where the spree began.
“If you have an axe to grind you list the people you want to kill the worst,” McAliley said, adding that the three lists did not represent a hit list but rather suggested McLendon bore grudges.
At the top of one of the lists, McLendon wrote of one grievance — that someone at the job he had left the previous week had reported him for not wearing earplugs.
The 28-year-old gunman, who lived with his mother, was armed for the shooting spree with two military assault rifles, a handgun and a shotgun. More than 200 rounds were fired in the rampage, which started at a home in Kinston in southeastern Alabama.
Aside from family members, McLendon killed the wife of a local deputy sheriff and her 18-month-old daughter, who were visiting family members.
The woman’s four-month-old baby was wounded along with five others. Three others, including a motorist at a gas station, were killed as McLendon drove through nearby Samson, apparently firing at random.
Harri Anne Smith, an Alabama state legislator who was in the town after the attack, said the gunman wore ear plugs.
Robert Preachers, the coroner in Coffee County, said he knew most of the victims including the killer. The area, which borders Florida, is a largely agricultural area with many low-income families.
“He (McLendon) was a nice quiet kid, no trouble. He was always polite and nice,” Preachers said. Asked about a motive, he said: “He carried it with him to the grave.”
The shooting spree ended after a car chase and gun battle, authorities said.
Describing the chase, Wynnton Melton, the mayor of nearby Geneva, said: “Officer Ricky Morgan rammed his car to distract him and was rewarded with a hail of bullets. ... One bullet grazed the shoulder of police chief Frankie Lindsey.”
In a chilling detail, Lindsey said the deputy sheriff whose wife and daughter were killed took part in the car chase without knowing what had befallen his family.
Mass shootings have become more frequent in recent years in the United States, where guns are widely available for purchase and the right to own weapons for self defense and hunting is defended by many.
In one of the worst recent shooting incidents, a gunman dressed as Santa Claus killed nine guests at a Christmas Eve party before taking his own life in Covina, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.
On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech, a university in Blacksburg, Virginia, became the site of the deadliest rampage in modern U.S. history when a student gunman killed 32 people and himself.
In Germany on Wednesday, a 17-year-old gunman went on a shooting spree at his former school in the southwest of the country, killing up to 15 people before dying in a shootout with police, authorities said.
Writing by Matthew Bigg; editing by Todd Eastham