Cops Close to Motive in Murderous Rampage

11 dead -- "He opened up on us with an AK-47," said wounded police chief.

March 11, 2009, 7:39 AM

March 11, 2009 — -- Investigators said this evening they are close to unravelling the mystery behind what led Michael McLendon to go on a grisly shooting rampage, killing 10 people, including his mother and grandmother before killing himself.

But according to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the killing spree had nothing to do with a list of co-workers that was found in a notebook in his partially burned home, which law enforcement officials earlier indicated might have provided clues to his motive.

The list included "the names of co-workers and some supervisors," Coffee County Assistant District Attorney Tom Anderson told

"He had jotted down notes for having been reported by employees for a job related infraction or for being reprimanded. He was obviously upset with them," Anderson said.

At a news conference this evening, though, ABI officials described that list as an employee phone list from Kelley Foods, a sausage factory where McLendon worked until last week, and said it was found in a notebook that appeared to be more than a year old.

The ABI officials refused to go into detail about what McLendon's motive might have been, but insisted that it did not appear to be job related.

Though law enforcement officials had characterized the list as a possible key to what set the man off, they said most of McLendon's victims were members of his family and no one on the list was among the dead.

"He cleaned his family out," Coffee County coroner Robert Preachers said. "We don't know what triggered it."

Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley had told The Associated Press the list was a compilation of people "who had done him wrong."

The list also included several companies, including Kelley Foods and Reliant Metals, a factory where McLendon, 27, worked in 2003.

Also on the list, according to federal court records obtained by the AP, was Pilgrim Pride, a poultry plant where he and his mother had worked. According to the records, McLendon and his mother, along with other plant employees, had sued Pilgrim Pride over compensation claims from when they were suspended in 2006.

McLendon's murderous spree began with the execution-style killing of his mother and ended at Reliant Metals, where he was cornered by police and shot himself in the head.

It appeared that McLendon had intended to keep hunting victims at the factory.

"He had plenty of ammo in his car and other weapons, and he appeared to be going to do some damage there," Kirke Adams, district attorney for Geneva and Dale counties, told the AP.

Alabama state trooper John Reese told "Good Morning America" this morning, "We are still unclear of what caused the incident."

The shooter is described by former classmates and officials as a "quiet" person who was briefly a member of the local police department, but left the force without finishing his training. McLendon abruptly quit his job at Kelley Foods last week where he was called a respected "team leader."

McLendon's killing spree began in Kinston, Ala., just north of the Florida line, where he shot his mother, Lisa McLendon, execution style.

"She was shot in the head," Anderson said.

The woman was found lying face down on her couch. Anderson said that her body was covered with the corpses of her three dogs apparently shot by McLendon, and covered up with a pile of clothes. She was doused with an accelerant and the couch was set on fire, he said.

Police say the heavily armed McLendon then got into his car and drove through two towns, stopping or slowing down to fire at people on their porches, at a gas station, or on the street.

Toward the end of his attack, McLendon engaged in a running gun battle with police who tried to ram his car to stop him.

"He opened up on us with an AK-47," said Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey, who was wounded in the shoulder. "That's what it looked like. It could have been an M-16, but it was an assault rifle, automatic. And he burst about 15 to 18 rounds on our vehicle, all at once."

"It looked like he was trying to kill us. There's no doubt about it," Lindsey said. "We were face-to-face with him. He just put the weapon out the window and let go a burst."

Lindsey said his bulletproof vest saved his life. "The vest comes in play, I promise you," he said with a nervous laugh.

It was later determined that McLendon was armed with two high powered assault rifles, a Soviet-made SKS and a Bushmaster. He also had at least one . 38 caliber pistol, police said. He fired more than 200 rounds, police said at a news conference today.

The carnage ended when McLendon drove to the Reliant Metals factory where he once worked and exchanged more shots with the police before he went inside and shot himself to death, police said.

After leaving his mother's house Tuesday afternoon, McLendon drove 12 miles to the town of Samson, where he mowed down several of his own family members as they sat on a porch. Among the dead were an uncle, a cousin and a nephew.

Also cut down were Andrea Myers and her 18-month-old daughter child Corinne, the wife and daughter of a Geneva County sheriff's deputy. The two had stopped by to visit on their neighbor's porch. Only a 4-month-old baby, Ella Myers, covered in her mother's blood, survived the onslaught.

'He Sprayed Bullets Through the Town'

He then shot his 74-year-old grandmother next door.

Barry Aplin told the Dothan Eagle newspaper that he saw McLendon chase a woman into her house and open fire.

"I saw him in the living room just blazing the world up," Aplin said.

The gunman then got into his car and began driving around the tiny town, shooting through the car window at whoever unfortunately caught his attention.

"He sprayed bullets through the town," Adams said.

Sonya Smith, 43, was shot dead when she stepped out of a gas station. Another motorist, Bruce Malloy, was killed as he drove past McLendon. James Starling, 24, was sprayed with bullets as he tried to run away.

"In a cowardly act, he shot him in the back," Adams said.

McLendon fired several shots at the Bradley TrueValue Hardware store before heading out of town for Geneva, 12 miles away.

"We were just business as normal, and all of a sudden there were bullets flying and glass was everywhere," owner David Bradley told the Dothan Eagle newspaper. "We realized what it was and grabbed our guns, but then he was gone."

No one was hurt in the hardware store shooting. "There's a lot of people who had close calls," Adams said.

One of those was Greg McCullough, who was pumping fuel at the gas station when the gunman roared into the parking lot and slammed on his brakes.

"I first thought it was somebody playing," McCullough told the AP. Then he saw the rifle.

McLendon opened fire, killing Smith when she stepped outside and wounding McCullough with bullet fragments that struck his truck and the pump. At one point the rifle appeared to jam, and then McLendon fired more shots before driving off.

"She was a really good person. She was getting ready to go to work," said Smith's friend Debra Hill. She said Smith has a daughter who recently graduated from high school.

In Geneva, police said McLendon let loose with a volley at a Wal-Mart, but it wasn't immediately clear whether anyone had been injured in that attack.

Cops chased McLendon to the Reliable Metal Products factory in Geneva, where he exchanged more shots with police before walking inside and shooting himself.

One of the officers who cornered McLendon at the factory was Josh Myers, whose wife and toddler daughter were shot dead on the porch in Samson. His infant daughter, he said, was in stable condition with a wound in her leg.

"We get trained to handle something like this ... but this was something that was never expected," Myers told a news conference.

Myers said he was devastated to find out that his family was among McLendon's victims.

"I cried so much yesterday I don't have a tear left in me," he said. "I never in my life will be able to understand it."

Myers appealed for help and asked people to pray for him and his surviving daughter.

"I don't know how to handle this situation," he said.

ABC News' Emily Friedman contributed to this report

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