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GA professor sought after shooting spree

April 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities were on a nationwide manhunt for a marketing professor in the shooting deaths of three people Saturday at a community theater near the University of Georgia. Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said the shooter was the ex-husband of one of the people killed, Marie Bruce, who was in her 40s. Police were looking for 57-year-old George Zinkhan, who has been a marketing professor at the university in Athens since the 1990s.

Two men, one in his 40s, the other in his 60s, were also killed. The three were shot multiple times, Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson said.

Zinkhan had dropped off his two young children with people who live next door to him in Bogart, a suburb of Athens, about seven miles from campus, shortly after noon, his neighbor said. Police were called to the Athens Community Theater less than a mile from campus about 12:25 p.m. and found the three people shot to death outside, Holeman said.

Two others were hit by shrapnel, and their conditions were not immediately known, Holeman said.

The shooting happened as local actors were gathered before an evening performance of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure." Holeman said there was some sort of discussion, possibly a disagreement, between the shooter and one of the victims when the shooting took place. Holeman said a motive wasn't immediately known.

Two different guns were involved in the shooting, and neither was recovered at the scene, Holeman said. Investigators were searching Zinkhan's house.

Authorities issued a nationwide alert for Zinkhan and his 2005 red Jeep Liberty with Georgia license plate AIX1376.

"Anyone who shoots three people is dangerous, that's the best way I can put it," Holeman said.

Neighbor Robert Covington said Zinkhan dropped his son and daughter off at his house. Covington said Zinkhan only said there had been an emergency and that he needed the Covingtons to watch the children for about an hour and then left. He described Zinkhan and Bruce as married and living together in the house.

Covington said when he asked Zinkhan's daughter, who is about 10 years old, about the emergency "all she would relate to me was there was something about a firecracker."

Police later showed up and took the children, along with Covington's wife, to the police station, Covington said.

Zinkhan was quiet and introverted, but Covington said would never suspect something like Saturday's events.

"It's a pretty huge shock," Covington said.

Dana Adams lived across the street from Zinkhan, but said she didn't know him well. She described him as "kind of a strange character," who would sometimes walk off in the middle of a conversation. "But I would never suspect this," Adams said.

She said SWAT teams had swarmed the neighborhood and police had hidden in her backyard. Covington called his neighborhood, "police central."

Zinkhan has been a professor in the Terry College of Business, university spokesman Pete Konenkamp said. He didn't have any disciplinary problems.

"His track record is impeccable as far as his teaching credentials," Konenkamp said. "He's a respected professor on campus."

Bruce was a well-respected attorney in Athens who loved the theater and recently directed a production of "Trip to Bountiful," said Wesley Cook who knew Bruce through the theater company, where Cook's girlfriend performed.

"She was very lively and charming and was an integral part of that theater community," Clark said.

According to the Georgia Bar, Bruce graduated the University of Georgia's law school and specialized in family law.

The university issued a campus-wide alert as a precaution.

"Our first thoughts are for safety of the university community and for prompt apprehension of the person responsible," university President Michael F. Adams said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those who have been affected."

Before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia, Zinkhan held academic positions at the universities of Houston and Pittsburgh. He has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1974.

Tom Reichert, a professor at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, knew Zinkhan from around the campus.

"This is a total shock," Reichert said. "I wouldn't say he was particularly vivacious or particularly quiet. He was right down the middle."


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