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Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 09:53 UK

Arkansas party leader shot dead

Bill Gwatney (handout image courtesy of Arkansas Democratic Party)
Bill Gwatney was taken to hospital but died of his injuries

The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party has died after being shot by a gunman at the US state's party HQ.

Bill Gwatney, 49, was shot several times by a man who barged his way into his office near the state capitol building in Little Rock, police said.

The attacker was shot and killed after a police chase, officials said.

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said Mr Gwatney's killing was a "senseless tragedy". Bill and Hillary Clinton said they had lost a friend.

"We are deeply saddened by the news that Bill Gwatney has passed away," the Clintons said in a joint statement.

He was, they said, " a cherished friend and confidante".

The couple lived for years in the Arkansas capital of Little Rock while former President Bill Clinton was governor of the state.

Barack Obama, who competed with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination to run for US president in November, also said he was "shocked and saddened" by news of the shooting.

Map showing Arkansas

Police have named the suspected gunman as 50-year-old Timothy Dale Johnson of Searcy, a town about 50 miles (80km) north-east of Little Rock, the Associated Press reported.

The motive for the shooting remains unclear.

A 17-year-old volunteer at the party headquarters building told AP that the suspect had pushed past staff to get into Mr Gwatney's office.

"He said he was interested in volunteering but that was obviously a lie," Sam Higginbotham said.

Mr Gwatney was taken to hospital in a critical condition and died of his injuries about four hours later.

He was a former state senator and was due to attend the Democratic Party's national convention in Denver later this month as a superdelegate.

He supported Mrs Clinton during the contest for the party's presidential nomination.

Last December, a man who claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest walked into Mrs Clinton's campaign office in New Hampshire, prompting a hostage drama lasting several hours.




SEE ALSO
Peaceful end to Clinton standoff
01 Dec 07 |  Americas
State profile: Arkansas
30 Oct 07 |  Americas

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
WMC-TV Wreaths, flowers mark sidewalk outside Dems HQ - 2 hrs ago
Southwest Times Record State Democratic Chairman Slain - 3 hrs ago
Washington Post Ark. Democrat leader mourned; slay motive elusive - 3 hrs ago
Cleveland LiveGunman kills head of Arkansas Dems - 4 hrs ago
Battleboro Reformer Ark. Dem. chairman shot, killed - 5 hrs ago
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