A gunman killed three men at separate locations in Richmond's Southside area last night, shouting racial insults at at least two of the victims as he shot them in the head in front of their customers, police said.

One of the victims was of Arab descent and the other was Asian, Richmond police said. The other man was black, as is the gunman, who remained at large early today.

"We've got officers working all over the city," said Richmond police Detective Ron Brown, who added that the slayings are being investigated as possible hate crimes.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the gunman shot and killed Derrick Conner, a black man, outside a public housing complex in the 1600 block of Glenfield Avenue, police said.

About 10 minutes later and three miles away, the gunman walked into the James Food Market, a convenience store in the 1800 block of Broad Rock Road. He then started yelling ethnically insensitive comments at store employee Abdulrahman Aldhabhani, 43, and shot him in front of customers, Brown said.

The gunman grabbed some cash and store items before fleeing, Brown said.

The gunman then walked next door to Poly Cleaners and started yelling at Jong Doh, 39, who is identified in documents as owner of the dry cleaner. Customers there also witnessed the shooting, police said.

The gunman ran out of the business and fled in a large, gray, older-model car, Brown said. Witness accounts at the second and third shootings led police to believe that all three shootings were committed by the same man, he added.

Conner was pronounced dead at the scene. Aldhabhani, of Richmond, and Doh, of Midlothian, a Richmond suburb, were pronounced dead on arrival at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, police said.

Brown said early today that police were reviewing a surveillance videotape from the convenience store.