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Alabama police kill suspects after separate shootings

Published December 15, 2012 10:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Birmingham, Ala. • Police in Alabama killed two suspects Saturday after separate shooting incidents 75 miles apart that left three other people dead and several injured, including two officers.

East of Birmingham, police shot and killed a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle at the end of a pursuit that began with a triple killing in Cleburne County, near the Georgia state line, authorities said.

Neighbors reported hearing gunshots at a mobile home park in Heflin and summoned police around 10 a.m., Cleburne Sheriff's office Investigator Michael Gore told The Anniston Star. Authorities were in the process of removing three bodies from the mobile home Saturday night.

Investigator Dennis Green of the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office told the newspaper that the three gunshot victims were males but that authorities were uncertain of their ages. Green said a child younger than age 2 was also injured and taken to a Georgia hospital.

Initial reports by a police official that the victims at the mobile home were a mother and her young children were false.

A police pursuit of a suspect ensued and wound into Oxford, where the man crashed a car near the busy interchange of Leon Smith Parkway and U.S. 78. Partridge said the suspect fired at police with the AK-47, wounding one police officer from Heflin. That officer was reported in critical condition Saturday night.

The suspect "exited the vehicle and started shooting at the officers," Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said. "The officers returned fire."

Authorities said the suspect then carjacked a vehicle at the intersection, though the occupants were able to escape.

Police caught up with the suspect in nearby Coldwater. As he was being chased, he crashed his car into another vehicle.

Partridge said the suspect reached for the assault rifle as he exited the car. Two members of an Oxford police SWAT team fatally shot him, Partridge said.

Law enforcement officials were examining multiple crime scenes Saturday afternoon, trying to determine what happened, said Lynn Hammond, the chief assistant district attorney for Calhoun and Cleburne counties. She said that authorities were investigating a homicide, but she declined to comment further.

The name of the suspect was not immediately released.

In a separate incident, authorities said Jason Letts, 38, of Jemison opened fire early Saturday morning at a hospital in Birmingham, wounding a police officer and two employees before being shot and killed by another officer.

Police were sent to St. Vincent's Hospital around 4 a.m. to check on a report of an armed man inside the facility. Two officers who arrived separately converged on the suspect on the hospital's fifth floor.

"When the officer encountered the suspect, there was immediate gunfire from the suspect," Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams said. He said detectives were still trying to establish a motive.

A handful of cardiac patients and several staff members were on the fifth floor, hospital spokeswoman Liz Moore told reporters during a news conference. She said the hospital is secure and stable, and patient care was not interrupted.

Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said in a statement, "In light of the recent mass shooting in Connecticut, too many of these incidents end with unimaginable tragedy."

The shootings continued what has been a violent several days in Alabama. In Homewood, police continued to investigate the slayings Friday of a 30-year-old woman and her two sons, ages 4 and 5, at the family's apartment. Police said they were awaiting autopsy results to determine how they were killed. Authorities said they received a call from a man returning to the apartment from work Friday who said he'd found his family dead. Police said the man was being held in "protective custody."