Police searched for a gunman in rural Virginia today who they believe killed eight people at a nearby home and forced down a police helicopter after shooting its fuel tank.
State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said investigators used dogs and heat-sensing equipment to search overnight for Christopher Speight, 39, in a wooded area in Appomattox County, about 100 miles southwest of Richmond. Authorities believe he is armed with a high-powered rifle.
Local officials agreed to close four schools that serve about 2,000 students as a precaution, said Sheriff O. Wilson Staples.
Police found three bodies inside a rural home yesterday and four other victims lying outside. Another man found injured along a nearby roadway later died.
Geller said state, local and federal authorities rotated shifts to maintain a constant security presence in the area overnight, and expected "to put forth more aggressive efforts, both on the ground and in the air" during the day.
"Our focus is on locating this individual and apprehending him," she said during a morning news conference.
The drama began around noon yesterday when a victim was spotted barely alive along the side of a narrow, undivided country road.
A deputy who answered the emergency call heard more gunshots and soon the area about three miles from the state police district headquarters was filled with police, with more than 100 responding. The injured man died on the way to the hospital, said state police sergeant Thomas Molnar.
Earlier, as teams tried to catch the gunman, he fired at the helicopter trying to flush him out, police said. One or more rounds struck the helicopter, forcing it down, but no police were injured.
Police refused to speculate on a motive. Molnar gave no background on the suspect, saying not much was known about him.
Police did not release the victims' names or the suspect's possible relationship to them. All the victims were adults and both men and women were killed, Molnar said.
Speight's last known address was along the block lined with modest homes where the shootings occurred, but Molnar did not know if the suspect was still living there. He also would not say whether the shootings happened at that address nor if the victims were shot at the home where most of the bodies were found.Reuse content