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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK

World: Americas

Atlanta gunman kills 12

Detectives inspect the van in which Barton's body was found

A gunman responsible for the deaths of at least 12 people, including his wife and two children, in the US city of Atlanta, has killed himself after being surrounded by police.

Brian Barron reports: "The fact that he used 2 handguns can only intensify the debate about gun control"
The suspect - identified as Mark Barton, a 44-year-old stock exchange trader - was ordered to pull over at a petrol station in the town of Acworth, 30 miles north-west of Atlanta, after a massive police manhunt.

He then shot himself with one of two weapons he was carrying.

The drama began shortly before 3pm local time (1900GMT) on Thursday, when Mr Barton walked into the offices of the All-Tech Investment Group in Atlanta's Buckhead financial district.

[ image:  ]
Witnesses say he appeared calm and spoke to staff about the state of the financial markets, which had seen massive falls that day over worries about US inflation.

Moments later he produced a pair of handguns - later identified by police as a 9mm and a .45-calibre - and opened fire, killing four office workers.

One witness quoted the killer as saying, shortly before he began shooting: "I hope this doesn't ruin your trading day."

He then moved across the road and began shooting at another office building in the Piedmont Centre where another five people were killed.

Click here to see map

Six people injured in the shootings were still in Atlanta's Grady Hospital on Friday.

[ image: Police remove the body of one of Barton's children]
Police remove the body of one of Barton's children
Three of the wounded were in critical condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman, though they were said to be able to speak to nursing staff.

After the shooting spree, police discovered the bodies of his wife and two children at his home in Stockbridge, 16 miles south-east of Atlanta.

A handwritten note was left on each body and a further letter, written on a computer, was found in the living room.

Police chronology

This is the full sequence of events, as outlined by the Atlanta Police Department:

  • 1445 Barton enters All-Tech Investment Services in the Securites Centre, kills four
  • 1450 He crosses 6-lane Piedmont Road, enters Momentum Securities brokerage in Piedmont Centre, kills five
  • 1500 Police arrive on scene after receiving 911 emergency call
  • 1523 Police in Henry County find bodies of Barton's second wife and two children
  • 1558 First of three ambulances arrives; office workers evacuated by police
  • 1715 Mayor Campbell holds news conference to announce fatalities
  • 2000 Barton shoots himself after being stopped by police

Clinton expresses sadness

The Mayor of Atlanta, Bill Campbell, told reporters: "Pray for our nation and pray for our city; these are unspeakable tragedies."

[ image:  ]
President Clinton has expressed his sadness over the shootings, and said federal officials were assisting state and local authorities in their investigation.

"Our thoughts are primarily with the families of the victims and those who are struggling for their lives in the hospital," said Mr Clinton, who is in Sarajevo for a Balkan summit.

The killings in Atlanta are the latest in a series of multiple shootings that have taken place in the United States over the past few months, raising concerns about the ready availability of guns.

The BBC's Mark Devenport reports: "The United States again having to deal with the aftermath of a mass-shooting"
Mr Barton was the main suspect in the unsolved double murder of his first wife and his mother-in-law on Labour Day in 1993.

The two women were found beaten to death in a camper van in east Alabama.

Mr Barton - who is reported to have taken out an insurance policy worth $600,000 on his first wife's life - was subsequently awarded custody of the couple's two children.

Massive manhunt

Mayor Campbell said: "We have no idea what caused Mr Barton to begin shooting."

[ image: Police SWAT teams quickly arrived on the scene]
Police SWAT teams quickly arrived on the scene
Immediately after the shootings, armed police began a massive manhunt, searching neighbouring buildings floor by floor but quickly spreading beyond the city limits.

Office workers outside the building praised the police for organising a rapid evacuation.

The All-Tech Investment Group is a brokerage firm involved in day trading, where individuals trade in shares for profit on a day-to-day basis. On Thursday, the financial markets fell very heavily on fears of rising US inflation figures.

[ image:  ]

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