Image: Michael McLendon
Samson High School Yearbook  /  EPA
Michael McLendon, identified by authorities as the gunman in a southeast Alabama shooting spree that left 11 people dead, is seen in a 1999 high school yearbook photo.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/11/2009 8:37:44 PM ET 2009-03-12T00:37:44

The gunman who killed 10 people then himself in a rampage in south Alabama had filed a lawsuit along with his mother against the poultry plant that suspended her from her job, federal court records show.

Authorities said the company, Pilgrim Pride, was on a list that Michael McLendon kept of employers and people "who had done him wrong."

The records show McLendon and his mother, Lisa McLendon, are among employees who sued over compensation claims from 2006. McLendon killed his mother and nine others in a burst of gunfire across two counties.

A company spokesman did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

McLendon had trained as a police officer and recently quit his job at a sausage plant, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators trying to figure out why McLendon, 28, killed relatives and others Tuesday afternoon found the list in his mother's burned-out home, Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley said.

"We found a list of people he worked with, people who had done him wrong," said McAliley in a brief interview outside the charred house where the rampage began.

The list included the nearby sausage plant he quit days before the spree and the metal factory where he shot himself, authorities said.

Investigators also found more than 20 empty ammunition boxes, military and survival gear, and medical supplies in the home.

“We have gone through the house where it all started,” McAliley said. “It’s obvious to me he had planned doing this kind of thing and had for some time.”

The killings devastated rural communities in two counties near the Florida border. While the list was one of several perplexing clues that emerged Wednesday about McLendon's life, authorities couldn't say what set him off.

Video: Woman rescues infant during rampage And the people who might be able to explain — his mother, his grandmother, his uncle and two cousins — were among the victims. A witness said the four had no time to react when McLendon wordlessly and expressionlessly pulled his car up to a house where they were sitting and opened fire.

"I've been here 30 years, this is the worst thing that's ever happened in this community," Geneva County Sheriff Greg Ward said at a news conference. "We have lost friends here in our community. It's going to take a while before we can get over it."

The rampage, which lasted about an hour, started around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. McLendon set his mother's house on fire and killed her, then drove 12 miles and opened fire on his uncle's front porch, killing five more people and his grandmother, who lived next door, authorities said.

Then, he drove through town and fired seemingly at random, killing three more people. With police in pursuit, he ended up at the metals plant where he once worked, and shot himself after engaging in a shootout with law enforcement officers.

"He had plenty of ammo in his car and other weapons and he appeared to be going to do some damage there," said said Kirke Adams, district attorney for Geneva and Dale counties.

Authorities said McLendon fired more than 200 rounds during the rampage.

Trained as officer
McLendon was briefly employed by the police department in Samson in 2003 and spent about a week and a half at the police academy, dropping out before he received firearms training, said Col. Chris Murphy, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Image: series of photos of accused shooter Michael McLendon sit in a melted frame
Dan Anderson  /  EPA
A series of photos of  Michael McLendon sit in a melted frame from a fire he is accused of starting in the home of his mother in Kinston, Ala.
More recently, he worked nearly two years at food manufacturer and distributor Kelley Foods in Elba, about 25 miles north of where he shot most of his victims.

The company said he quit last Wednesday. It didn't specify what his position was, but said in a statement that he was a "reliable team leader" who was well-liked.

Though Kelley Foods said he left voluntarily, the company was on the list of those the gunman felt slighted by, said McAliley. So were another of his employers, Reliable Metals in Samson, and a Pilgrim's Pride plant near Enterprise where his mother had worked. The district attorney said the mother had recently been laid off from the plant.

McAliley wouldn't elaborate further on what the list said.

McLendon worked at Reliable Metal Products until 2003, when Geneva County District Attorney Kirke Adams said he was forced to resign. A co-worker there, Jerry Hysmith, echoed Kelley Foods' description, saying McLendon was shy, quiet and laid-back.

"Something had to snap," said Hysmith, 35, who lives in Samson, and worked with McLendon in 2001.

The victims were identified as McLendon's mother, Lisa McLendon, 52; his uncle, James Alford White, 55; his cousin, Tracy Michelle Wise, 34; a second cousin, Dean James Wise, 15; and his grandmother, Virginia E. White, 74. Also killed were James Irvin Starling, 24; Sonja Smith, 43; and Bruce Wilson Malloy, 51.

The wife and a daughter of Geneva County Deputy Josh Myers, who was one of the law enforcement officers involved in the chase for McLendon, also died in the shooting spree. Andrea D. Myers, 31, was visiting the home with 18-month old Corrine Gracy Myers and 4-month-old Ella Myers when the shooting began.

Andrea Myers and Corrine were killed. Ella was flown to a hospital in Pensacola and was awaiting surgery for a wound to the leg caused by either a bullet or shrapnel. She was in fair condition, authorities said.

"I cried so much yesterday, I don't have a tear left in me," said the girl's father, who did not know McLendon. "I feel like I should be able to walk in the house and my wife would be there, my baby girl climbing on me."

Trail of blood
The first killed Tuesday was McLendon's mother. Authorities said he put her on an L-shaped couch, piled stuff on top of her and set her afire. He said McLendon also shot four dogs at the house.

A dozen miles away, he gunned down the other relatives and sent panicked neighbors and family fleeing and ducking behind cars. His uncle's wife, Phyllis White, sought refuge in the house of neighbor Archie Mock.

"She was just saying, `I think my family is dead, I think my family is dead,"' said Mock, 55.

Neighbor Tom Knowles saw McLendon pull up and begin firing without saying a word, leaving his victims no time to react.

"He had no expression — just dead," he said.

McLendon went inside the house and chased Phyllis White out before driving off, Knowles said. He returned moments later in his car as if he were still looking for her. The witness then made eye contact with him.

"He had cold eyes. There was nothing. I hollered at him. I said, 'Look, boy, I ain't done nothing to you,'" Knowles said. McLendon then left for good.

Afterwards, Knowles said he and his daughter found the baby Ella bleeding: "The only thing that was alive was the 3-month-old baby."

'First thought it was somebody playing'
McLendon shot more victims at random as he drove toward the metals plant where he once worked. Smith was struck down as she walked out of a gas station. Malloy was hit while driving. Starling was shot as he walked.

Greg McCullough, a contractor who lives in the town, said he was pumping fuel at the gas station when the gunman roared into the parking lot and slammed on his brakes.

"I first thought it was somebody playing," McCullough said. Then he saw the rifle. McCullough was hit in the shoulder and arm with bullet fragments that struck his truck and the pump.

At the Reliable plant, McLendon got out of his car and fired at police with his assault rifle, wounding Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey, authorities said. He then walked inside and killed himself.

Image: yearbook photo of Michael McLendon
Dan Anderson  /  EPA
A photo of Michael McLendon from his junior yearbook at Samson High School.
Tommy Boyles, a 76-year-old security guard who works at the Reliable plant, said he and his wife were on the street nearby when McLendon passed. They feared they could have been one of his victims.

"We could have been caught up in it just as well as anyone else," he said. "That's what scares you: to be an innocent bystander and some nut walks up with a gun."

State of shock
The community was still in shock Wednesday.

"This was 20-something miles of terror in my district," said State Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb.

Samson Mayor Clay King said he had known McLendon all his life and could not say what triggered the shootings. He said he coached the suspect along with his own kids in tee-ball and in Little League.

"If you would have asked me two days ago if he was capable of this, I would have said certainly not," King said on NBC's TODAY show.

Lynn Childs, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center in Montgomery, said the slayings were the most victims killed by one gunman in Alabama since the organization started keeping such records in 1978.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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