Scene was ‘horrific’

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“We are not immune.”

With those words, Sheriff Dennis Meeks recounted what he and other local law enforcement officers witnessed firsthand Tuesday as they responded to the scene in Samson where a gunman killed 10 people, including a Geneva County Sheriff’s deputy’s wife and his 18-month-old daughter.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Meeks said. “It was a horrific scene, a senseless act. Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened here before.”

Investigators are still trying to figure out why Michael McLendon, 28, killed five family members and five others at random. The rampage started shortly after 3:30 p.m. and spanned two counties for more than an hour, during which McLendon sprayed more than 200 rounds from four guns, including two assault rifles.

Meeks and Chief Deputy David Anderson, along with CCSO investigators, deputies, reserve officer, posse members and Drug Task Force agents, were among the first wave of neighboring law enforcement agencies who responded to the crime scenes left in McLendon’s wake.

Meeks, Anderson and Opp’s assistant chief Mike McDonald responded to the scene of McLendon’s uncle’s Pullum Street home in Samson, where they quickly began helping secure the crime scene until other law enforcement agencies could arrive.

“Those people never had a chance, they were right there on the porch when they got shot,” Meeks said. “It was just horrible.

“When we arrived, we began by helping with the initial stages of the investigation as far as we could,” he said. “It was getting eyewitness statements, taking photos — it was a lot of photo logs. Later, as more officers arrived and (Alabama Bureau of Investigation) and the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) came in to start the major process, we were sent over to Geneva to assist.”

Meeks said it was hard to comprehend the “senselessness” of the act.

“When (an officer) get(s) there, you’re going to do what you have to do,” he said. “At that point, you’re not taking in what’s there, what’s happened.

“That comes later, and you realize how devastating this act is — our hearts go out to the families — but it makes you realize that even us here in Covington County, we are not immune.

“It happened in Samson. It could happen here,” he said. “God forbid. Right now, this investigation is ongoing. We don’t know exactly what happened or why it occurred. We have no idea. We don’t where the ties may lead. I just pray that it never happens in Covington County.”

McDonald said the sense of “shock” extended far from the town limits.

“You could tell people were just wandering around in a sense of shock and it was affecting everyone in the area,” McDonald said. “It’s just a bad situation — a bad, bad situation.”

New details surrounding the events emerged Wednesday afternoon as authorities speculated on what prompted McLendon’s actions.

“We found a list of people he worked with, people who had done him wrong,” said Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAiley in a brief interview outside the charred house where the rampage began.

Among those on the list were Kelley Foods in Elba, where McLendon quit three days before the shootings, as well as Reliable Metals in Samson, the site where he took his own life, and a Pilgrim’s Pride plant near Enterprise where his mother had worked. It also included the names of eight local attorneys, but McAiley wouldn’t elaborate further on what might be included the list.

The list, which was found in the charred remains of the Kinston home of McLendon’s mother, Lisa, was among the items that led investigators to believe this was no random act. Also found were more than 20 empty ammunition boxes, military and survival gear and medical supplies.