UPDATED: 4/24/2013 – 9:08 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Five people were shot to death on Wednesday morning in the small downstate town of Manchester, and the suspect in the shooting later died at the hospital after a shootout with police. A young girl was also critically wounded by the gunman.
Illinois State police confirmed the deaths. Around 4:30 a.m., police responded to a shooting at a housing development on East Street, near Fourth Street, and found the five victims in an apartment. They all had been shot, according to preliminary police reports.
Manchester is located about 50 miles southwest of Springfield.
Authorities have not released the identities of the victims, but said they were related. The Chicago Tribune reported the victims were a grandmother, a young couple, and two children.
A six-year-old girl survived the attack, but was in critical condition at a local hospital, police said.
The suspect was identified as 43-year-old Rick Odell Smith, of Morgan County. Kilby said Smith “was an acquaintance” of the victims, but said they were still investigating his connection to the victims.
Sources said Smith entered the home through a back door, armed with a shotgun, and shot the victims in various rooms of the apartment. Police said Smith carried the 6-year-old girl out of the home after the shootings, and placed her in the arms of a neighbor before fleeing the scene.
Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Todd Kilby said, after discovering the five victims’ bodies, witnesses told police Smith fled the scene in a white Chevy Lumina.
About three hours after police were notified of the shootings, the suspect’s car was spotted in the town of Winchester, about 12 miles away, and as officers gave chase, they exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
“The offender exited his vehicle, pointed a weapon at the officers, and discharged his firearm. The officers then returned fire, striking the offender,” Kilby said.
“Police took the suspect into custody, while he was in possession of multiple weapons,” Kilby said. “The suspect was then transported to an area hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.”
Scott County State’s Attorney Michael Hill said Smith had a criminal history, including a reckless homicide conviction, and a number of arrests for drugs and writing bad checks.
Bryan Smith won’t excuse his brother but thinks he can explain him.
A family’s murder at the hands of Rick Smith was spurred, his family believes, by a bitter custody battle.
“And it was not a random event. In his mind he was protecting his daughter,” said Bryan Smith, the shooter’s brother.
Smith says his brother’s little girl wasn’t in this home when shots were fired this morning but her grandmother and other relatives were.
A deadly day overwhelming for many like the shooter’s uncle, Manchester’s mayor.
“It’s devastating. The people in the community I talked to it’s just a tragedy,” said Manchester Village President Ronald Drake.
Hill said a crime of this nature is rare for the small rural area.
“Scott County is a small community. Fortunately, this type of thing does not happen here very often, but this is proof that it can happen,” he said.
Residents of the town of about 300 people echoed those sentiments.
“Everybody is stunned. We don’t have stuff like this ever happening,” one woman said.