APPOMATTOX, Va. – Police with dogs and heat-sensing equipment hunted for a man they say shot eight people to death Tuesday and then nearly took down a police helicopter that was trying to flush him out of the woods near this central Virginia town.
State police said officers had the suspect, Christopher Speight, 39, encircled in the woods late Tuesday near the home where seven of the bodies were found and they believed he was still alive. An eighth victim was found barely alive on the side of the road – which led to police being called – and died on the way to the hospital.
All the victims were adults and both men and women were killed, state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said.
Police refused to speculate on a motive and would not say what type of weapon was used. Molnar also gave no background on the suspect. Speight’s last known address was along the block where the shootings occurred, but Molnar did not know if the suspect was still living there.
The drama paralyzed the rural area as police swarmed forests trying to catch the suspect who fired at a state police helicopter, forcing it to land with a ruptured fuel tank, police said. No police were injured after one or more rounds struck the helicopter.
A National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment was being used to search the woods.
“They are searching the area and will continue until the suspect is apprehended,” Molnar said.
Appomattox is in a county of about 15,000 approximately 100 miles southwest of Richmond. It is best known as the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to end the Civil War.