A man described as mentally unstable stopped his pickup truck in rural, out-of-the-way spots in Illinois and Indiana on Tuesday morning, randomly asking strangers questions about honeybees before opening fire, wounding a farmer and construction worker and killing a 45-year-old man in Will County, police said.
The man, who police said was disheveled and heavyset and appeared to be in his 40s, wearing a green windbreaker and driving a 1990s-model Chevy pickup, remained on the loose. Officials privately worried about more violence to come if he wasn't captured.
"It is really just a messed-up world that we live in these days," said Bob Dahl, 65, of Bourbonnais, whose brother Keith Dahl was shot three times after going out to speak with a stranger in his driveway, perhaps thinking he needed directions. "I don't know what else to say. It is a bizarre situation."
The shootings touched off a massive manhunt across northern Indiana that went well into the night. As reports of sightings of a truck matching the suspect's vehicle flooded the sheriff's office, deputies were dispatched to track down leads across the state.
"We're going at this aggressively," said Chief Marco Kuyachich of the Lake County sheriff's office. "We've probably covered the upper one-third of the state."
The violence erupted around 10:30 a.m. near Beecher, Ill., a rural spot where weeks sometimes pass without a single crime being reported.
Three Indiana men were at work inside a fire-damaged house on Stony Island Avenue in Washington Township near the state line when a man stopped and asked if they were selling anything like paneling or plywood from the home, said Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas.
The man left, then returned and started talking about honeybees. "He engaged our victim in a conversation about bees, honeybees, and as soon as the (victim) started walking away, he shot him," said sheriff's spokesman Pat Barry.
The worker, identified Tuesday night as Rolando Alonso of Hammond, Ind., was fatally shot in the head, police said. His body remained in the boarded-up home for part of the day as crime scene investigators went over the property. Another man, 19, whom police found outside the home, was shot in the head and stomach and airlifted to a Kankakee-area hospital in critical condition.
A third worker, 19, escaped by running into a cornfield, Barry said.
That man was shown photos of possible suspects but did not identify anyone as the shooter, Kaupas said.
The men were workers from Rich Construction, an Indiana firm that officials said specializes in rebuilding burned-out buildings. The company declined comment.
About 45 minutes after the attack, Keith Dahl, 64, was in his pickup, apparently surveying the bean fields that his grandfather had first planted, when a man in a Chevrolet pickup pulled into the gravel drive outside his white, two-story farmhouse. The property, just south of Lowell, Ind., is about 15 miles southeast of the Beecher-area shooting.
The man had a Colt revolver and some odd questions about honeybees, police said.
Dahl approached the stranger on his sprawling ranch near 201st Street and Cline Avenue. The stranger asked if Dahl would be interested in storing some honeybees on his property to make some extra cash, Kuyachich said.
Apparently sensing something amiss, Will County sheriff's officials said, Dahl handed the man a slip of paper with a "bogus" name and address of someone who might be interested. Without warning, the man shot at Dahl, hitting him three times in the arm and shoulder.
The gunman then snatched Dahl's wallet, said Lake County police. Authorities recovered bullets from the farmhouse door and from Dahl's pickup that appeared to be from a .38- or .357-caliber pistol.
Dahl was being treated at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, where his brother said that, because of Dahl's importance as an eyewitness, police kept him "under a John Doe name and we can't even go see him."
The emergency vehicles pouring into the area and the sheriff's helicopter circling overhead were completely out of place in the quiet community, said Keith Dahl's neighbor, friend and fellow farmer Wayne Wietbrock.
"This is unheard of," Wietbrock said. "Why do you want to just shoot somebody?"
Bob Dahl said he wasn't sure how serious his brother's injuries were. But the farm isn't a big worry in a place where neighbors stick together.
"I'll bet you anything that his neighbors would do whatever they could to bring in the crops," he said.
Carlos Sadovi contributed to this report.
-- Steve Schmadeke, Joel Hood and Dennis Sullivan
See police sketch of "bee" killer
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