A gunman on a terrifying rampage across two southern Alabama counties Tuesday killed at least nine people, including members of his own family and apparent strangers, and burned down his mother's home before fatally shooting himself, authorities said.
Police were investigating shootings in at least four different locations in several communities, all of which were believed to be the work of a single gunman who had not yet been identified by investigators.
The afternoon of bloodshed began in Kinston, near the Alabama-Florida border, where the shooter burned down his mother's house, according to Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers. Officials located the woman's body inside the house, but they had not been able to get inside the still-burning house to determine a cause of death or whether she was the 10th victim.
The gunman then headed east, into Geneva County, where he shot and killed five people _ four adults and a child _ at a home in the nearby town of Samson. Then he killed one person each in two other homes. The identities of all the victims were unknown, but Preachers said they included other members of the shooter's family.
"He started in his mother's house," Preachers said. "Then he went to Samson and he killed his granny and granddaddy and aunt and uncle. He cleaned his family out."
"We don't know what triggered it," Preachers added.
The gunman also shot at a state trooper's car, striking the vehicle seven times and wounding the trooper with broken glass.
He then killed someone at a Samson supply store, and another person at a service station.
Samson contractor Greg McCullough said he was pumping gas at the station when the gunman opened fire, killing a woman coming out of the service station and wounding McCullough in the shoulder and arm with bullet fragments that struck his truck and the pump.
"I first thought it was somebody playing," he said. He said the gunman roared into the parking lot and slammed on his brakes. Then he saw the rifle.
He said the gunman fired and the rifle appeared to jam, then he "went back to firing." Then he drove off.
McCullough, a father of two, said he tried to help the woman who was shot and yelled for someone to call an ambulance.
"I'm just in awe that something like this could take place. That someone could do such a thing. It's just shocking," McCullough told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Police pursued the gunman to Reliable Metal Products just north of Geneva, about a dozen miles southeast of Samson, where he fired an estimated 30 rounds from a semiautomatic weapon, the Alabama safety department said. One of the bullets hit Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey, who was saved by his bullet proof vest.
The gunman then went inside the plant and shot himself, according to the safety department's statement.
Reliable Metal Products makes grills and vents for heating and AC systems, mainly for hotels. A person who answered the phone at the plant said no one could talk about the shooting.
State Rep. Warren Beck, a Republican whose district includes Geneva, said the gunman had worked at Reliable Metal.
"My secretary heard gunfire everywhere," he said. "This is one of the most tragic events ever in Geneva County."
State Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, said some of those killed in Samson were sitting outside.
"He was just driving down the street shooting at people sitting on their porches," she said. "A family was just sitting on the porch and they were shot."
Smith and Beck were at the Statehouse when state troopers came to get them and took them to Geneva County. Smith said the governor's office is sending resources and state troopers are setting up a command post.
A white single-story house where the five people were killed in Samson was cordoned off by police.
Police had hung white sheets to the entranceway to shield the scene where authorities said a black hearse that pulled away late Tuesday was transporting victims' bodies.
Samson Mayor Clay King said he knew the gunman but wouldn't identify him. He declined to comment on a possible motive.
"What I'm focusing on is people here in the town, making sure they feel comfortable," said King, who added the town opened a crisis center at the First Baptist Church with counselors available.
King said he's the "most shocked person in the world" about the shooting.
"I've lived here 44 years and never, never dreamed of this happening," he said.
The towns of Geneva and Samson are near the Florida border in southeast Alabama. Geneva's population is about 4,400 and Samson, 2,000.
In the center of Samson, authorities in sheriff's cars and trucks with blue lights flashing blocked off part of East Main Street, where some of the shooting occurred.
At the hardware store, yellow tape was strung across the front of the store where at least five bullet holes punctured the glass windows to the store, with its wheelbarrows and Adirondack lawn chairs on display. An orange-and-black sign to the store reading "Closed" lay on the ground outside the store atop the glass shards.
David Bradley, 51, the owner of the hardware store, said he was inside behind the counter when the shooter opened fire outside his store. At the time, there were five customers inside, plus Bradley's 27-year-old son, Justin.
"No one was injured inside the store," David Bradley said, adding he didn't even get a glimpse at the suspect. "It happened so quick."
Associated Press Writers Garry Mitchell in Mobile, Bob Johnson in Montgomery and Anna Varela in Atlanta contributed to this report.