Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Virginia shootings: Man surrenders after eight die

Suspected gunman Christopher Speight (centre) is led out of police HQ in Appomattox, 20 January
The suspect was brought to state police headquarters in Appomattox

A man suspected of shooting dead eight people in rural Virginia has given himself up after a manhunt in which a US police helicopter was fired on.

Bomb teams are searching the area for explosive devices which may have been planted in the man's house and surrounding woods.

Police said medical examiners would try to identify the victims once the area has been secured.

The suspect is reported to have been personally acquainted with the victims.

The man, named as Christopher Speight, 39, turned himself in at about 0710 (1210 GMT) after an all-night stand-off with police, who had surrounded woodland just outside the town of Appomattox.

The local sheriff said Mr Speight was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he surrendered, but was not armed and did not need any medical attention.

Police are searching the area where he was hiding overnight for a high-powered rifle they believe he used to shoot at a helicopter which had been called to the scene.

The helicopter's fuel tanks were hit by four bullets, forcing it to land.

A sheriff said he believed that the suspect had had weapons training, based on arms found in the house.

Mr Speight has been taken to Appomattox regional jail, pending charges.

A spokesman for Virginia's governor said the suspect was being debriefed and was being very co-operative, although a motive for the shooting was still being investigated.


News of the shootings broke on Tuesday afternoon and everyday life in the area was paralysed, with local schools closing down as police hunted for the gunman.

The authorities were first alerted when they received a call about an injured person lying in the middle of a road.

When a deputy arrived at the scene, he heard gunfire and called for back-up.

The injured man was taken to hospital where he died of his wounds.

Police from across the state were brought into the densely wooded area, which is about 100 miles (160km) south-west of Virginia's capital, Richmond.

Police dogs and a National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment were used to search the woods.

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Mr Speight is the co-owner of the house in Snapps Mill Road, where the first reported victim was found.

He also owns a large tract of land next to the house.

The Washington Post quoted local officials as saying two of the dead were believed to be his wife and son.

Police found three bodies inside the house and another four outside. The eighth victim was the man found injured in the street.

County Administrator Aileen Ferguson said it was one of the worst mass killings in Virginia's history, "probably the worst since the Virginia Tech killings in 2007", when a student shot 32 people .

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Bombs found at gunman's home - 1 hr ago
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The Scotsman Man suspected of shooting dead eight people turns himself in - 10 hrs ago Explosives found at home of suspected Virginia gunman - 10 hrs ago
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