Alabama Gunman Was Depressed Before Massacre

The Alabama gunman who turned tiny rural communities into bloodbaths when he went on a terrifying rampage was depressed in the days leading up to the massacre, police said.

Michael McLendon, 28, was down about job matters before he went on a killing spree that left him, his mother, four other relatives and five bystanders dead.

Lt. Barry Tucker of the Alabama Bureau of Investigations said interviews with people who spoke to McLendon in the days before the shooting led them to believe he wasn't happy.

McLendon was "somewhat depressed about job issues," Tucker said Wednesday night.

But, he added, detectives don't think the shooting was directly related to the gunman's employment situation. Authorities believe they know the motive, but declined to release it. McLendon didn't leave any notes giving a reason.

"There's no specific indication of 'This is why I did it,"' said Tucker.

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Meanwhile, federal court records show that McLendon had filed a lawsuit along with his mother against the poultry plant that recently suspended her from her job.

Authorities say McLendon had struggled to keep a job and left behind lists of employers and co-workers he believed had wronged him.

The lists found in McLendon's home included Reliable Metals, which forced him to resign years ago, a sausage factory from which he suddenly quit last week and the plant that suspended his mother, District Attorney Gary McAliley said.

The pages torn from a spiral notebook included names of co-workers, including one who reported him for not wearing ear plugs, another who made him clean a meat grinder and a supervisor who didn't like the way he cut pork chops, McAliley said.

Still-stunned residents of the tiny Alabama communities torn apart by the gunman's bloody rampage described McLendon as "quiet" and "normal" — not the sort of person who would commit the worst massacre in state history.

As many cowered in fear while they listened to the steady crackling of gunfire Tuesday night, none knew that McLendon was one of their own.

A heavily armed McLendon killed 10 people and himself in his methodical two-county spree in a rural section of Alabama near the Florida border. He fired many of the shots from his automatic weapons while he was driving.

As a teenager, he played youth baseball and graduated from the local high school. He later worked at local factories.

Josh Smith played baseball with McLendon when they were young and later went to Samson High School with him, although he had not seen him since graduation.

"He was just a normal person," Smith said Wednesday. "He was very quiet and, as far as I know, never got in trouble."

Retired teacher Billie June Smith, 68, remembered McLendon from the fourth grade as soft-spoken, a hard-worker and very polite, like his mother.

One day McLendon found a $20 bill at school and brought it to Smith to keep until someone claimed it. She that story stuck with her because it showed he was honest.

"He was a student that I enjoyed," said Smith, who lives in nearby Earlytown.

McLendon began his killing spree a dozen miles from Samson in Kinston in Coffee County, where he burned down the home he shared with his mother, killing her.

It ended about an hour later with him taking his own life after a shootout with police in nearby Geneva at Reliable Metals, where he worked until 2003.

In between, he gunned down four relatives and the wife and 18-month-old daughter of a local sheriff's deputy on a wide front porch that looks like so many others in Samson. He went into the home and chased his aunt outside, but she escaped, according to the Press-Register.

He then turned his gun next door and killed his 74-year-old grandmother and sent panicked bystanders fleeing and ducking behind cars.

McLendon then drove off, spraying bullets through the town lined with old brick buildings, killing three more bystanders.

The shootings cast a pall over an old town of 2,000 people that rarely changes. A black bow blew in the breeze in front of City Hall the day after. Across the street, workers replaced a window at Bradley True Value Hardware, which was hit in the hail of gunfire.

"God bless the victims and their families and God bless Samson," said a scrolling electric sign at Byrd's Nest Florist on Main Street.

"The community's just in disbelief, just how this could happen in our small town," said state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, from the nearby town of Slocomb. "This was 20-something miles of terror."

Darrell "Smitty" Smith, a corporal with the Sansom Police Department, served in Iraq with the Alabama National Guard. He was shocked by the carnage at the home of McLendon's relatives.

"Walking up on that porch and seeing that, it was much worse than anything I ever saw in Iraq because at least in Iraq you expect it, you are prepared for it and you stand a chance to protect yourself," Smith said.

"We are just a small town and we were not prepared for anything like this," he said.

Investigators offered no immediate explanation for why McLendon targeted relatives and others who weren't on the list as he fired more than 200 rounds in the worst mass killing by a single gunman in Alabama history.

Derek Weeks, 28, was senior class president of McLendon's class.

"He was kind of reserved and to himself. I can't tell you one bad thing about him," said Weeks, who lives in nearby Enterprise. "I don't remember him ever getting in any kind of trouble."

He also couldn't really remember who McLendon was good friends with, even though their class was small with about 50 graduates.

As word about the killings spread, Samson high graduates scrambled to find their yearbooks, and many realized they knew the gunman.

Like many, Weeks couldn't believe the terror that shattered the small community.

"But one benefit to living in a small town is the closeness of the people," he said. "So we know that if something happens, everyone will still be together and will be there for the families of those victims."

On Wednesday night, hundreds of community members gathered for a prayer service at First Baptist Church of Samson.

"Father, there are times in life when we don't have answers to the question 'Why?"' Rev. Steve Sellers told the congregation. "I don't know what set a young man off like that, but I, too, want to pray for his family."

It was not clear how long McLendon had been planning the attack, but authorities said he armed himself with four guns — two assault rifles with high-capacity magazines taped together, a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol — and may have planned a bigger massacre than he had time to carry out.

"I'm convinced he went over there to kill more people," said Sheriff Dave Sutton.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.