|Family members Earl Johnson, with his wife, Kay, and their son, left the home of shooting victim James Alfred White yesterday. (Phil Coale/ Associated Press)|
Ala. gunman had revenge list, DA says
Sought employers 'who had done him wrong'
SAMSON, Ala. - A gunman who killed 10 people in the worst mass shooting in Alabama history had a list of employers "who had done him wrong," including the nearby sausage plant he quit days before the spree and the metal factory where he shot himself, authorities said yesterday.
Investigators trying to figure out why Michael McLendon, 28, killed relatives and others Tuesday afternoon found the list in his home, Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley said.
"We found a list of people he worked with, people who had done him wrong," said McAliley in a brief interview outside the charred house where the rampage began.
The killings devastated rural communities in two counties near the Florida border. While the list was one of several perplexing clues that emerged yesterday about McLendon's life, authorities couldn't say what set him off.
And the people who might be able to explain - his mother, his grandmother, his uncle, and two cousins - were among the victims. A witness said the four had no time to react when McLendon wordlessly pulled his car up to a house where they were sitting and opened fire.
The rampage started around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and took only about an hour from start to finish. In that time, McLendon sprayed more than 200 rounds, authorities said.
First, McLendon set his mother's house on fire and killed her, then drove 12 miles and opened fire on his uncle's front porch, killing five more people and his grandmother, who lived next door, authorities said. Then, he drove through town and fired seemingly at random, killing three more people. With police in pursuit, he ended up at the metals plant where he once worked, and shot himself after engaging in a shootout with law enforcement officers.
"He cleaned his family out," Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers said.
McLendon was briefly employed by the police department in Samson in 2003 and spent about a week and a half at the police academy, dropping out before he received firearms training, said Colonel Chris Murphy, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety. More recently, he worked nearly two years at food manufacturer and distributor Kelley Foods in Elba, about 25 miles north of where he shot most of his victims.
The company didn't specify what his position was, but said in a statement that he was a "reliable team leader" who was well liked, but quit last Wednesday.
Though Kelley Foods said he left voluntarily, the company was on the list of those the gunman felt slighted by, said McAliley. So were another of his employers, Reliable Metals in Samson, and a
McAliley wouldn't elaborate further on what the list said.
McLendon worked at Reliable Metal Products until 2003, when Geneva County District Attorney Kirke Adams said he was forced to resign. A co-worker there, Jerry Hysmith, echoed Kelley Foods' description, saying McLendon was shy, quiet, and laid-back.
"Something had to snap," said Hysmith, 35, who lives in Samson, and worked with McLendon in 2001.
The victims were identified as McLendon's mother, Lisa McLendon, 52; his uncle, James Alford White, 55; his cousin, Tracy Michelle Wise, 34; a second cousin, Dean James Wise, 15; and his grandmother, Virginia E. White, 74. Also killed were James Irvin Starling, 24; Sonja Smith, 43; and Bruce Wilson Malloy, 51.
The wife and daughter of Geneva County Deputy Josh Myers, who was one of the law enforcement officers involved in the chase for McLendon, also died in the shootings. Andrea D. Myers, 31, was visiting the home with 18-month old Corrine Gracy Myers and 4-month-old Ella Myers when the shooting began.
Ella was flown to a hospital in Pensacola and was awaiting surgery for a wound to the leg caused either by a bullet or shrapnel. She was in fair condition, authorities said.
"I cried so much yesterday, I don't have a tear left in me," said the girl's father, who did not know McLendon. "I feel like I should be able to walk in the house and my wife would be there, my baby girl climbing on me."