Eight members of the same family have been killed “execution-style” in Pike County, Ohio, early Friday morning during a mass shooting. Seven adults and a 16-year-old male were shot in the head while sleeping in four separate homes only a few miles apart. Each victim was a member of the Rhoden family.
One of the adult victims included a mother who was slain next to her 4-day-old infant. The shootings are believed to have taken place overnight. The 4-day-old infant, as well as a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old, were unharmed, and all three survived the shootings. Deputies were able to safely remove the children from the homes, according to Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader.
USA Today reports seven of the victims were found at three residences in the county. Two of the homes were “within walking distance” and the third was a half mile away. The eighth victim was found in a fourth home about eight miles away.
— Ally Kraemer (@AllyKraemer) April 22, 2016
The shootings took place northeast of Peebles, Ohio, which is a small town of about 2,000 people 80 miles east of Cincinnati. Schools in Peebles were placed on lockdown.
“This is a horrible, horrible tragedy,” Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine told reporters. “What makes this particularly grisly is you have three children involved who were there when the executions took place.”
Dewine and Sheriff Reader said the none of the victims committed suicide, and investigators believe they were murdered. Authorities say they’re searching for at least one gunman, but there might be more than one shooter.
“Obviously we have one person who is armed and dangerous and there may be more, two or three,” DeWine said. “We don’t really know how many people we are talking about.”
CNN reports investigators said the Rhoden family seemed to be specifically targeted, although they have not named any suspects or possible motives for the mass shooting. The shooter or shooters are likely armed and dangerous to surviving family members. DeWine emphasized the shooter or shooters have not been caught.
“We do not know their location. We would advise the people of Pike County…to be careful. We’re advising the family members to be very careful and take particular caution. This really is a question of public safety. Particularly for any of the Rhoden family.”
DeWine also said concerns for the family’s safety have been discussed with them, and the sheriff’s office will “work with them for protection.”
— Jess Grimm (@Jess_CGphoto) April 23, 2016
Sheriff Reader added residents should lock their doors and “not to panic, but certainly also to be careful.”
“We have a specific family that’s been targeted but I don’t think there’s been a threat to any other members of the community,” Reader said.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation sent over a dozen agents to the scenes of the shootings in Pike County at the request of the Pike County Sheriff Office. By Friday evening more than 30 people had been interviewed in connection with the mass shooting, according to the NBC Columbus affiliate WCMH; however, DeWine said he “would not use the term ‘person of interest'” to describe any of those interviewed.
DeWine is asking the public to contact authorities by calling 1-800-BCI-OHIO if they have any information about the mass shooting in Pike County. At a news conference, he stressed media reports that a person of interest had been detained in Chillicothe were not true. The investigation has just begun and could take a while, he added.
#BREAKING: Ohio Attorney General says anyone with tips in this shooting can call 1-800-BCI-OHIO pic.twitter.com/8nkNdy941w
— Mary Tignor (@MaryWLWT) April 22, 2016
The FBI is closely watching the situation and has offered their assistance but is not actively involved in the investigation at this time.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Office is actively searching for the gunman or gunmen involved in the mass shooting in Ohio.
[Photo by John Minchillo/AP]