After beginning the bloodshed at his mother's home in the town of Kinston, near the Alabama-Florida border, the shooter, in his mid-30s, moved to a town to the east of Kinston.

Five people were then shot in a house in Samson, in Geneva county.

Two other adults were also found dead at separate homes in the town.

The identities of the dead have not been released but a local official has said that they included other family members and strangers.

Random shooting

Police responded to four reports of shootings and a car chase ensued, during which the assailant shot randomly at people on the roadside.

Troopers then halted the man's car near the town of Geneva, about 20km southeast of Samson.

There the man shot at police, injuring one trooper, who was saved by his bullet-proof vest, and striking patrol vehicles on multiple occasions.

"Officer Ricky Morgan rammed his car to distract him and was rewarded with a hail of bullets," Wynnton Melton, the mayor of Geneva, said.

"One bullet grazed the shoulder of police chief Frankie Lindsey."

The man then went inside a nearby metal plant where he shot himself, the public safety department statement said.

Low-income area

The region is mostly an agricultural area with low-income families and has not been the scene of previous shooting sprees which have blighted other areas of the US.

Recently, a man killed nine people and himself at a Christmas Eve party last year, in Covina, Los Angeles.

A student at Virginia Tech university in Virginia state killed 32 people and himself in April 2007, in the most deadly rampage in modern times in the US.

The right to own guns has been fiercely defended in the US since the country's civil war in the 19th century, and they are widely available for purchase for reasons of self-defence and hunting.