SAMSON, Ala - Many around Samson knew Bruce Maloy as their town's comedian, a goodhearted, wiry little jokester who was always boasting about hitting it big someday.
In life, he never really got the spotlight he was seeking. But in the days following a massacre that shattered their small Alabama community, some have dropped the comedian label and replaced it with another: Hero.
On Friday, witnesses and authorities said Maloy, the 10th and final victim of Tuesday's shooting rampage by Michael McLendon, single-handedly tried to end the violence with his beat-up old pickup truck.
With gunshots still echoing through downtown Samson and the killer headed toward a bigger city 12 miles away, Maloy chased McLendon's dark red Mitsubishi out of town, ramming the vehicle at least once.
Maloy briefly slowed down the killer, and he may have given police and state troopers time to catch up to McLendon, said Geneva County Chief Deputy Tony Helms. But it cost him his life.
"There's a hero in all of this that nobody is talking about, and that's Bruce Maloy," said Jim Stromenger, a dispatcher with the Samson Police Department.
McLendon shot the 51-year-old welder to death at a lonesome spot on Alabama 52 before eluding police in Geneva and killing himself with a single gunshot to the head at a former workplace, Reliable Products.
"Whether Bruce was following him in an attempt to find out where he went, stop him, I don't know. But I think he deserves recognition for what he did," said Helms.
Helms was one of two officers involved in a dizzying, final shootout with McLendon at Reliable Products.
A divorced father with three grown children, Maloy lived in an old trailer off a dirt road on the outskirts of town. Christmas lights still hang from the side.
Maloy's youngest child, 19-year-old Eva Maloy, helped his ex-wife and friends gather a few items from his home Friday as others made funeral arrangements. She's not exactly sure what her father did that day, but the idea of him giving his life to help others wasn't surprising.
"It sounds like him," said Maloy.
Initial reports depicted Maloy as the final victim of random gunshots sprayed by McLendon who also killed his mother, four more relatives and four bystanders in Alabama's worst mass killing. A truer picture emerged when investigators spoke with witnesses, piecing together details of McLendon's 24-mile path of death, Helms said.
Maloy was stopped at a traffic light on Main Street in Samson, headed west toward his home. Shots rang out to his left at the Big Little Store, and McLendon pulled out of the parking lot going east toward Geneva.
Two workers at Samson Feed and Seed saw Maloy whip his ragged old Isuzu pickup to the left, doing a U-turn and gunning it as he took off after McLendon.
With Maloy behind him, McLendon shot at a hardware store and a car stopped at a red light and kept going. Within seconds, Craig Harrison saw both vehicles speed past his business.
"The car came by and Bruce was right behind him. He wasn't two car lengths away from him," said Harrison, who formerly employed Maloy at Craig's Cycle and Marine. Harrison heard two more shots and believes McLendon was trying to get Maloy off his tail.
Maloy's chase ended 2.4 miles from where it began. Damage to the front of Maloy's truck indicates he rammed McLendon at least once, and the Mitsubishi had damage to its rear, although a police car could have done that.
Near a pipe plant just inside the city limits, McLendon fired at least three shots at Maloy after a collision. Two bullets hit metal, a third went through the windshield and struck Maloy.
Some people didn't like being around Maloy because he was such a big talker, Harrison said. He could be a little obnoxious with his joking and boasting.
But Samson now knows him as someone much different.
"He needs some recognition for what he did," said Harrison. "It was something he always wanted, and now the old boy won't see it."