GRAND RAPIDS (Reuters) - A man suspected of killing seven people in a bloody rampage ended a hostage standoff with police late on Thursday by shooting himself in the head, Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said.

The suspect, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, had engaged in a gun battle with police in downtown Grand Rapids and a high speed chase before taking three people hostage. One hostage was released earlier and the other two were safe, Belk said.

The suspect had said he wanted to give himself up, but while he was talking with negotiators about how he could surrender, "we heard a gunshot and it turned out to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," Belk said.

"The hostages are outside. They are safe. The suspect is dead at the scene," he said.

Belk said police were confident that Dantzler was the suspect in all seven murders and had acted alone.

Police suspect Dantzler shot dead five adults and two children at two different locations, setting off a police manhunt with helicopters, state police and sheriff's deputies. Two bystanders were wounded during the chase.

The suspect later drove the wrong way on Interstate 96, slammed into a ditch and fled on foot into a neighborhood in northeast Grand Rapids where he pressed his way into a house and took the hostages, Belk said.

Shots were fired as he entered the house, but the house occupants were not injured, Belk told reporters. He released a 53-year-old woman who lived at the house. But a man and woman remained held and were in a tight confined area at the back of the house during the hostage situation, he said.

Investigators do not know the motive for the shootings, but believe that one of the victims was his daughter and one was an ex-girlfriend, Belk said.

"You just cannot come up with a logical reason why someone would take seven people's lives for what seems to be just a totally senseless purpose," Belk said.

The hostages were believed to be strangers to Dantzler.


Mayor George Heartwell described the saga as "a rolling rampage" that included gun battles with police in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids which left a squad car shot up.

"This is so uncharacteristic of Grand Rapids. We are all stunned about it," Heartwell said in a telephone interview.

Kent County Deputy Sheriff Dale DeKorte said the suspect ran down a series of side streets and exchanged gunfire with police before reaching the interstate.

"You couldn't get more downtown," DeKorte said. "He was shooting at us as he went through."

Police cordoned off several blocks of the neighborhood surrounding the house where he was barricaded. Neighbors described the area as working class with trimmed lawns.

Hundreds of people came out to watch the scene unfold on a warm clear night.

"We went from lemonade stands to murder," said Leslie Mourand, who lives near the barricaded house. "This whole situation is totally surreal to Grand Rapids. Maybe we live in a bubble, but we are protective of our bubble."

Belk said the seven bodies were found at two separate locations. Two adult women and a girl were found dead at one location and three adults and a child at the second location.

Officers in a police cruiser spotted Dantzler in a Lincoln Town Car within hours of the discovery of the bodies of the victims, and the officers began a pursuit that led through downtown, Grand Rapids police spokesman Sergeant Jon Wu said.

Dantzler fired at the officers multiple times and police returned fire, and at one point a bullet struck a woman bystander who was in a car, striking her in the arm, Wu said.

Her wounds and the wounds of another bystander were not life-threatening, police said.

(Writing by David Bailey. Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune, Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan)

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