August 31, 2011
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A US army captain gunned down his ex-wife, mother-in-law and two other people in a shooting spree during Hurricane Irene before he turned the gun on himself, a justice official told AFP on Monday.
Captain Leonard Egland, who is understood to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, started his rampage on Saturday evening right in the middle of the storm and ended it after a shootout with SWAT teams shortly before dawn Sunday.
Buckingham County district attorney David Heckler said it appeared that Egland committed a triple homicide in Virginia before crossing state lines and killing his estranged wife's mother, following a recent child custody row.
The soldier, 37, had been the target of a manhunt after the shooting deaths of his 36-year-old former wife, her boyfriend and her boyfriend's son at a house in Chesterfield, Virginia, as Irene swept up the east coast.
He apparently killed them before driving north into Pennsylvania with his young daughter and gunning down his ex-wife's mother, Heckler said.
Police had been alerted after Egland entered a hospital and left a note asking medics to check on his daughter's health but he pulled out a gun and fled in his car when a member of staff confronted him about the youngster.
"He left a note referring to his mother in law. We believe he shot her in the head," said Heckler, noting that police tracked down the car, leading to a pursuit and shootout with SWAT marksmen.
"He had a semi-automatic rifle and fired around 10 shots at police vehicles," injuring one officer, the district attorney added. Egland was later found dead in nearby woodland.
"From what we have been told there was a legal visitation order involving the child that had allowed Mr Egland take his daughter to California for one week," Heckler said, referring to the soldier's tours of warzones.
"But the ex-wife threatened legal action after the daughter returned from the visit one week late," he added.
A police pursuit eventually saw Egland pinned down near a gas station. "We have every indication that he died from a self-inflicted gun wound. Everything is consistent with that," Heckler said.
The dead soldier's daughter, aged six or seven according to media reports, is in protective custody, authorities said.
Justice officials in Virginia were unavailable for comment on Monday.