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Gunman kills six including ex-wife during rampage in tiny rural town

Six people were fatally shot Friday at multiple locations in a small town in rural Mississippi near the Tennessee state line (Picture: Adam Itayem)

A gunman shot dead six people including his ex-wife and stepfather in a rampage which has rocked a tiny rural community in northern Mississippi.

Richard Dale Crum, 52, is said to have armed himself with a shotgun and two handguns before carrying out the killings at multiple locations across Arkabutla, near the Tennessee state line.

He allegedly shot a man sitting in the driver’s seat outside a convenience store, Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance said.

While deputies were working that crime scene, they were called to another shooting a few miles away where they found Crum’s ex-wife dead and her husband wounded.

Crum was arrested outside his own home a short while later.

Officers found the bodies of two handymen who had been shot dead lying behind the property.

His stepfather and stepfather’s sister bodies were discovered in a neighbouring home.

‘Everybody has crime, and from time to time we have violent crime, but certainly nothing of this magnitude,’ Mr Lance said in an interview.

He added: ‘Without being able to say what triggered this, that’s the scary part.’

Booking photo provided by Tate County Sherrif’s Office shows Richard Dale Crum (Picture: AP)

Crum was jailed without bond on a single charge of capital murder, and Lance said investigators were working to bring additional charges.

That initial murder charge was for the killing of Chris Eugene Boyce, 59, the man who was shot outside the store.

Mr Boyce’s brother was in the truck with him at the time and fled, according to the sheriff. Lance said Crum chased the brother through a wooded area before he escaped unharmed.

The other victims were identified as Debra Crum, 60; Charles Manuel, 76; John Rorie, 59; George McCain, 73; and Lynda McCain, 78.

Ethan Cash, who lives near the store, told WREG-TV he heard a gunshot from inside his house.

‘I had just woken up and I look back here, and I see dude walking back here with a shotgun,’ he said.

Mr Cash added that he went to the scene and found one person who had been shot. He checked for a pulse, but found none.

Law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a shooting (Picture: AP)

The killings stunned residents of Arkabutla, home to 285 people and located about 30 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s the hometown of famed actor James Earl Jones, and nearby Arkabutla Lake is a popular fishing and recreational destination.

An elementary school and a high school in nearby Coldwater both went on lockdown while the suspect was being sought, according to the Coldwater Elementary School Facebook page.

A short time later, a second post on the page said the lockdown had been lifted and ‘all students and staff are safe’.

April Wade, who lives in Arkabutla and grew up in Coldwater, said both are small communities where most people know each other, ‘but if you don’t, you know somebody who knows somebody’.

Speaking from a local tire store in the afternoon, Ms Wade said she and her husband were aware of the shootings but had not yet heard the names of the suspect or victims.

‘I think it’s crazy,” she said. ‘You do not expect something like that to happen so close to home.’

Officers investigate the scene of multiple shootings on Arkabutla Dam Road in Arkabutla (Picture: AP)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents were providing assistance to the sheriff’s department and state investigators.

Mr Lance said one of their top priorities was to determine a motive.

The sheriff, who has lived in the area his entire life and served in law enforcement for 25 years, said he could recall no prior problems with Crum.

The US has seen a deadly start to 2023, including six mass killings in a three-week period in January, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database.

It defines a mass killing as four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator.

There have also been a number of mass shootings in which fewer people were slain, such as Monday’s shooting at Michigan State University in which three people were killed and five were wounded.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were mourning the six victims and praying for the survivors.

He urged Congress to act now on gun law reforms to address what he called ‘an epidemic’ of gun violence.

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