BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — A newspaper carrier was killed and four other people were wounded when a man armed with two guns opened fire on cars traveling along a parkway in East Tennessee early Thursday morning.
A responding police officer was among those wounded.
Authorities would say little late Thursday about the alleged shooter or what might have motivated him to open fire on passing cars in the middle of the night. He was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police and has not yet been charged.
Jennifer Rooney, a 44-year-old mother who delivered the local newspaper, was driving to pick up papers for the morning delivery when she was shot and killed, said Bristol Herald-Courier publisher Jim Maxwell. Her family declined to comment.
Maxwell called it a "senseless act of violence" that has stunned the small city on the Virginia border.
"Residents of our community woke up to what was expected to be a typical July warm and humid morning, except today they were greeted with news of this extremely troubling event," Maxwell wrote. "It's like the crazy stuff you read about or see on television from other places suddenly and unexpectedly materialized here in our backyard. Things like this just don't happen here."
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine said the suspect was armed with at least two weapons. He fired shots just after 2:15 a.m. at a Days Inn on Volunteer Parkway, then opened fire on passing motorists. DeVine said he then shot at responding responding officers, who returned fire and wounded the shooter.
Deana Fleenor, a local photographer, said she fell asleep with the windows open Wednesday night at her home about two miles from the Days Inn. The gunshots startled her awake.
"All of a sudden I heard pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," she said. "You run through a thousand things in your head of what it could be."
At first, she thought someone was hammering. Then wondered if a noisy car was going by.
Then she heard a second wave of rapid-fire shots.
Another minute passed and she heard a third round of gunfire, then the roar of ambulance sirens in the distance.
"It's startling, it's very scary," she said. "Nothing like that really has ever happened in our town. I've always felt safe here."
The suspect and the other wounded people were taken to the Bristol Regional Medical Center. Bristol Police Chief Blaine Wade said the officer's injuries were minor.
Police declined to identify the shooter or speculate on his motive as they continued to investigate several crime scenes along the busy highway. DeVine would not say whether there was any connection between him and any of the victims.
Hours after the shooting, media reported that TBI agents were still processing evidence at four locations along more than 100 yards Volunteer Parkway, which was dotted with dozens of evidence placards.
"We're working as aggressively, as quickly and as carefully as possibly to gather any and all relevant evidence to determine the exact set of events," DeVine said in a statement.