Police hunting an Iraq war veteran suspected of shooting dead six members of his extended family ordered local residents to observe a lockdown – telling them to stay inside and not answer their doors while the gunman was on the run.
The authorities in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania said former Marine Bradley Stone, 35, was on the run after he apparently shot his ex-wife, her mother and other relatives in a series of encounters on Monday, apparently triggered by a custody battle. Mr Stone’s two daughters were not harmed.
On Monday evening, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Mr Stone may have been spotted in the town of Doylestown. It said that police had warned residents in the area to take extreme caution.
“We ask that all residents please remain in their homes with doors locked and away from any windows,” the alert to residents said. “Please do not answer your door for anyone other than law enforcement officers.”
Reports said that the shootings took place in three locations - Souderton, Lansdale and Harleysville – and began at around 4am.
The first shooting took place at the home in Souderton of Mr Stone’s former sister-in-law, Patricia Flick. She was killed along with her husband, Aaron Flick, and the couple’s daughter, Nina, 14. The couple’s 17-year-old son, Anthony Flick, was badly wounded.
The next shooting was at a house in nearby Lansdale where Nicole Stone's mother, Joanne Hill, and grandmother Patricia Hill were killed. Nicole Stone was later killed at her home in Harleysville. Neighbours reported seeing Mr Stone fleeing with their two children and raised the alarm.
The killings saw police launch a massive man hunt and heavily armed SWAT teams rushed to place schools under security.
The authorities did not identify Mr Stone as the suspect until mid-afternoon and then released only a few details, saying he was believed to be armed, had a red or auburn beard, and could be wearing fatigues and using a cane.
At a news conference outside the Lower Salford Township police building, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman declined to discuss a motive. “We do not know where he is,” she said.
However, the Inquirer reported that records revealed Mr Stone and his wife began divorce proceedings in early 2009. The divorce was finalised, but battles over custody of their two daughters, believed to be teens, were ongoing. Early this month, he filed an emergency motion seeking custody.
Ms Ferman said that after the killings, Mr Stone had dropped the couple’s two daughters at a neighbour’s house. One neighbour, Lisa Andrey, said the couple had “a very volatile relationship” that had deteriorated after Mr Stone returned from serving in Iraq.
When the pair first got together he was a great guy and an excellent father, she said. “And then he went away to Iraq and came back and was a completely different man.“
In a statement, the Marine Corps confirmed that Stone served between 2002 and 2008. His four service medals included the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal.
Records show that Mr Stone had been treated for unspecified combat-related physical injuries, and was also receiving continuing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Last year he pleaded guilty to a charge of drunk driving and was taking part in a rehabilitation programme for veterans.Reuse content