A 52-year-old man armed with three guns went on a shooting rampage in a rural Mississippi town on Friday, killing six people, including his ex-wife, and shocking a community that had not seen such mass violence in more than two decades, the authorities said.
The man, Richard Dale Crum, of Arkabutla, Miss., who was in custody by Friday afternoon, began his killing spree around 11 a.m. when he drove to a convenience store in his hometown, which has about 290 residents, and fatally shot a man who appeared to have no connection to him, said Brad Lance, the Tate County sheriff.
“Literally within minutes of getting that call, another call comes in,” Sheriff Lance said in an interview. And then several more residents called the Tate County Sheriff’s Office to report gunfire.
By early afternoon, deputies in Arkabutla realized they were dealing with multiple killings, several crime scenes and questions about what had possibly driven a local resident to fatally shoot six people, including some he apparently didn’t know.
After Mr. Crum shot a man at the convenience store, Sheriff Lance said, investigators believe he drove to the home of his ex-wife and fatally shot her. Mr. Crum also struck a man who was in his ex-wife’s home with a gun but did not shoot him, the sheriff added.
Mr. Crum then drove to the residence behind his house, Sheriff Lance said, and fatally shot a man who investigators believe is his stepfather and a woman who was also in the home at the time.
Then, on a road near Mr. Crum’s house that leads to a church, he fatally shot two men who investigators believe may have been doing some kind of construction work for either his stepfather or Mr. Crum, Sheriff Lance said.
Mr. Crum was charged with one count of first-degree murder, and more charges are expected in the coming days, Sheriff Lance said. The names of the victims were not immediately released. It was not clear if Mr. Crum had a lawyer.
“We don’t have violent crime in the community very often,” Sheriff Lance said. “It’s a very safe community.”
The killings led to the lockdown of some businesses, as well as a school, Coldwater Elementary, which said in a statement that its lockdown was lifted by early afternoon.
Bailey C. Martin, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, said the bureau was helping in the investigation and declined to comment further, referring questions to the Tate County Sheriff’s Office.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives New Orleans Field Division was also assisting, the agency said on Twitter.
Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said that he had been briefed on the shootings. The motive was unclear, he said.
“I will ensure that the full resources of the state are available to law enforcement as we continue to investigate the situation,” the governor said in a statement. “Please pray for the victims of this tragic violence and their families at this time.”