GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A gunman opened fire in two Michigan homes Thursday, killing seven people before leading police on a high-speed chase through downtown Grand Rapids, crashing his vehicle and taking hostages, authorities said.
Within hours, dozens of officers with guns drawn had cordoned off a neighborhood near a small lake in the northern part of the city and shut down nearby Interstate 96. With the man surrounded, state police warned some residents to stay in their homes and evacuated others.
"All the resources we have are there," Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said. "Our goal, right now, is to get him into custody. We have him cornered, if you will, in one house."
Authorities did not have a motive for the suspect, 34-year-old Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, or disclose his exact relationship with the victims.
After negotiating with officers, Dantzler released a 53-year-old woman unharmed, Belk said. Two hostages remained inside.
Police believed the suspect remained agitated. They said shots had been fired when he entered the house and during the standoff, though apparently no one was injured.
"It's a very tense situation. Our officers are obviously in harm's way," the chief said.
The manhunt for Dantzler began after four people were found dead in one home and three were found in another across town. Two of the dead were children.
The names of the victims were not immediately released. Autopsies were scheduled for Friday.
"We believe there were prior relationships with at least one person at each location, so we think there were some difficulties there," Belk said.
Records show Dantzler was released from state prison in 2005 after serving time for assault less than murder. A spokesman for the prison system said he had not been under state supervision since then.
At one point during the police chase, the suspect crossed a wide grassy median on the interstate and drove the wrong way down the highway while more than a dozen squad cars pursued him. Belk said he crashed the vehicle while driving down an embankment into a wooded area of the highway, which remained closed hours later.
Two other people were shot when the suspect fired at police during the chase, but their wounds were not considered life-threatening. One man was wounded in what Belk described as a "road rage" attack after the suspect fired through the rear window of the vehicle. A woman was hit in the arm in a separate shooting.
Carrie Colacchio lives a little more than a mile away from the hostage situation and said she was driving in the area when the suspect's vehicle blew through.
"I looked in my rearview mirror and see this big white SUV coming up behind me," she said. "The only way to get out of it was to push the gas pedal."
She couldn't turn off the road or slow down or go any other way and reached about 85 mph.
"I almost got smacked," she said. "I had to go up on the curb."
Sandra Powney lives across the street from one of the homes where the shootings happened and said she had seen Dantzler at the ranch house, where a couple has lived for more than 20 years with two adult daughters.
Powney said she had been at home all day and did not realize anyone had been killed until police arrived at the cul-de-sac in the midafternoon.
"For a while we couldn't come outside," she said. "They didn't know if there was someone still inside the house."
Neighbors said police congregated at Dantzler's home a few miles away after the shootings.
Sonia Bergers said Dantzler lived with a woman she assumed was his wife and their daughter, a girl who appeared to be about 10 years old.
Mary Lahuis and her husband had just returned home after having coffee at a nearby fast-food restaurant when police began running down their street with guns, yelling at people to get in their homes.
Of Dantzler she said: "You would see him going up and down the street. And you'd hear him going up and down the street."
Lisa Schenden lives with her husband and their children two blocks from the home where four people were killed. She said the homeowners are a couple whose daughter has a daughter with the suspect.
Schenden said she did not hear the shooting either, but she saw the suspect and his daughter drive up to the house earlier in the day.
"Just last night, my kids went over there swimming, and I went over with them," she said.
Outside the two-story, wood-sided home where the three people were killed, neighbors stood in clumps Thursday evening, quietly talking as investigators scoured the house. As officers left, people disappeared indoors and a single police car remained on the block.
The only indication of anything unusual was three bouquets of flowers on the porch steps.
Associated Press writers John Flesher and Kathy Hoffman in Grand Rapids and Corey Williams and David N. Goodman in Detroit contributed to this report.
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