ARKABUTLA, Miss. (AP) — Six people were fatally shot Friday at multiple locations in a small town in rural Mississippi near the Tennessee state line, and authorities blamed a lone suspect who was taken into custody.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bailey Martin confirmed the killings in Arkabutla, in Tate County, to The Associated Press.
Gov. Tate Reeves’ office said he had been briefed on the shootings and a male suspect was in custody.
“At this time, we believe he acted alone,” Reeves said in a statement. “His motive is not yet known.”
Tate County sheriffs dispatcher Shannon Brewer also confirmed that a suspect, who was not identified, was in custody. Brewer said further information would have to come from Sheriff Brad Lance, who could not immediately be reached by phone and did not immediately respond to an email message.
The sheriff told local news outlets the killings occurred at a convenience store and two homes. Trucks marked as belonging to the sheriff’s office and Tate County search and rescue were parked Friday afternoon outside the store, where authorities used yellow tape to cordon off the building.
“I heard the gunshot from inside my house,” Ethan Cash, who lives near the store, told WREG-TV. “I had just woken up and I look back here, and I see dude walking back here with a shotgun.”
Cash said he went to the scene and found one person who had been shot. He said he checked for a pulse but found none.
An elementary school and a high school in nearby Coldwater both went on lockdown while the suspect was being sought, according to the Coldwater Elementary School Facebook page. A short time later, a second post on the page said the lockdown had been lifted and “all students and staff are safe.”
Arkabutla resident April Wade, who grew up in Coldwater, said both are small communities where most people know each other, “but if you don’t, you know somebody who knows somebody.”
Speaking from a local tire store in the afternoon, Wade said she and her husband were aware of the shootings but had not heard the names of the suspect or victims.
“I think it’s crazy,” Wade said. “You do not expect something like that to happen so close to home.”
The shootings are the first mass killing in the U.S. since Jan. 23, which saw the last of six in a three-week period, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database. It defines a mass killing as four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said its agents were providing assistance to the sheriff’s department and state investigators.
Arkabutla lies about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, and is home to 285 residents according to the 2020 Census. Nearby Arkabutla Lake is a popular fishing and recreational destination.