Thursday 23 November 2017

US gun rampage suspect surrenders after manhunt

Man knew his eight victims, say police

Dena Potter in Virginia

A MAN suspected of slaughtering eight people in a gun attack in the US state of Virginia on Tuesday surrendered to police yesterday after an overnight manhunt.

Police refused to comment on the possible motives behind the rampage.

Sgt Thomas Molnar said Christopher Speight (39) approached officers at the scene of the shootings at Appomattox and turned himself in at about 7.10am local time. He was wearing a bulletproof vest but carried no weapons.

Speight was taken away to be interviewed and charges are pending. Authorities said Speight had lived in the house of which he was a co-owner. They also said he was acquainted with the victims but precise details of his relationship to them were not released.

"We are still interviewing him and it's going to take hours to process the crime scene," a police spokeswoman said.

She called it "an horrific tragedy, definitely one of the worst mass killings in Virginia since the Virginia Tech tragedy in April of 2007".

That campus massacre left 32 people dead, as well as the killer, Seung-Hui Cho dead.

Police confirmed that bomb-squad technicians were also at the scene because there might be explosive devices in or around the house.

Speight's uncle, Jack Giglio of Tampa, Florida, said he had few details about the the victims.

"We're shocked, of course," he said, adding: "I'm not aware of any problems with him. It's kind of out of the blue."

Giglio said he hadn't seen Speight, who he said was a deer hunter, since 2006, when they both attended the funeral for Speight's mother, who had died of brain cancer.

The drama began at around midday on Tuesday when a man was spotted barely alive along the side of a narrow country road. The man died on the way to hospital.

A local police deputy who answered the emergency call then heard more gunshots and seven other men and women were found dead, both inside and outside a nearby home.

Police surrounded a stretch of heavily wooded terrain overnight. As teams tried to flush out the gunman, he fired at a police helicopter and hit a fuel tank, forcing it to land. No police were injured.

Sheriff O Wilson Staples said investigators believed Speight had undergone weapons training, based on the weapons found in his home, although he declined to elaborate on this.

Court records in the county show that a concealed-weapons permit was issued to a Christopher Bryan Speight in 1999 and subsequently renewed in both 2004 and 2009.

The search for the gunman had paralysed the rural area near Appomattox throughout Tuesday. Four nearby schools serving about 2,000 students had planned to stay closed for the day until Speight finally surrendered.

Irish Independent

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