Gunman kills 4, then self, in 'horrific murder spree,' police say

A gunman shot and killed four people at two locations Saturday afternoon in Johnson County, Ky., before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.

The county sheriff’s office identified the killer as Joseph Nickell, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The names of the four victims were not immediately released.

“This has been a horrific murder spree. The lives of four innocent victims were taken. The perpetrator then took his own life,” Sheriff Dwayne Price wrote in a Facebook post Saturday night.

“There are no words to describe the heartbreak in seeing four lives taken due to the actions of one man,” Price wrote. “I have worked in law enforcement for 34 years. This is one of the most disturbing acts of violence I have ever seen.”

Joseph Nickell

Joseph Nickell, who authorities said was behind the killings of four people in Kentucky on Saturday.  (Facebook)

Price wrote that police in Paintsville received a 911 call at 3:33 p.m. about a shooting in the McKenzie Branch neighborhood.

When the sheriff and two deputies arrived at the scene, they found two dead bodies in the kitchen of an apartment, the Herald-Leader reported. Pictures posted to Facebook by Nickell show he had a gun collection.

Joseph Nickell gun collection

A picture posted by Joseph Nickell of several weapons he owned.  (Facebook)

During their investigation, authorities received a tip about a vehicle at an apartment complex elsewhere in Paintsville. When officers arrived, they found two more bodies, plus that of Nickell, WKYT-TV reported.

Authorities determined that Nickell fatally shot the four other people, the station reported.

Price said his office is working the case along with Kentucky State Police.

"Working a murder is never easy," Price said. "Working the murders of four innocent people that are part of your community is even tougher."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.