COPLEY, Ohio (AP) — A northeast Ohio man ran through his small town neighborhood Sunday shooting eight people, including his girlfriend and her brother, before he was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with police, authorities said.
Eight people, including the gunman, were killed. Witnesses told reporters at least one of the victims was a child.
Police did not have a motive and did not release the names or ages of the gunman or the victims but provided a chronology of the shootings that began around 11 a.m. in a middle-class neighborhood of Copley, a town of about 14,000 west of Akron.
“A person running through the neighborhood and firing a gun” prompted calls to police, Copley Police Department said in a news release late Sunday. At a home, the gunman shot his girlfriend, ran to a home next door and shot her brother and four others, then chased two people through some yards and shot one of them, police said.
He went into a third home and shot another person before leaving and exchanging gunfire with a police officer and a former police officer.
One of the man’s victims was taken to a hospital. The person’s condition was not known Sunday evening.
The names and ages of the victims and the gunman weren’t being released until police could tell family members, some of whom are out of state, Copley police Sgt. Eric Goodwin said.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Copley School Superintendent Brian Poe said a township trustee told him two Copley High School students were killed during the shootings and a third youth, an 11-year-old, was also killed. Poe said the trustee told him the 11-year-old was not a Copley student.
A neighbor, Gilbert Elie, said he was getting ready for church when he heard gunshots and cries for help in the wooded neighborhood. He went to a house across the street and said he found a shocking scene: the woman who lived there lying in the driveway, her husband shot near the garage, and their young granddaughter and another woman shot in the front seat of a vehicle, the windows apparently blown out by gunfire.
Elie said his neighbors Russ and Gerdie Johnson live at the home.
A third woman came out of the house next door and tried to talk to Elie, he said, but their brief exchange ended abruptly when a man followed her out of the house and shot her, sending the 75-year-old Elie running for safety behind a truck.
“She was talking to me, and he come up behind her and shot her, so I figured, maybe I’m next,” he told The Associated Press.
He hid until he could see the gunman was gone, then returned home. Police arrived, and Elie said he heard a second round of shots coming from behind the houses and assumed officers had killed the gunman.
Elie described the gunman as unfriendly, a rarity on a street where most neighbors offer a wave in passing. He often worked on his car outside his house but never waved at anyone, Elie said.
Police said they had received several reports of a person running through a neighborhood firing a gun and moving quickly throughout the neighborhood.
Brian and Diane Cross said they were riding on a motorcycle Sunday morning when they heard gunfire.
They said they heard a loud bang and saw a man with a gun chasing another man. Brian Cross, 53, said they drove a half mile to a service station to call 911, but “Copley police was already on it, and they were flying by us.”
Jeff Kirby of nearby Norton said he was visiting his mother’s home a block from the shootings around 10:30 a.m. when he heard gunfire — about 15 shots with several pauses between them.
Kirby, 53, said the last gunfire he heard occurred about the same time he heard sirens in the neighborhood.
The neighborhood remained blocked off by police late Sunday. About 200 people assembled at a park around sunset for an impromptu candlelight vigil for the shooting victims in their town and crime victims elsewhere.
The Rev. Jeff Bogue of the Grace Church of Greater Akron prayed with them, saying it’s troubling that “such evil would come to our little township.” Some residents said they set up a memorial fund.
Copley Township is about 40 miles south of Cleveland.