A Texas man allegedly opened fire on his neighbours after they asked him to stop shooting rounds in his yard, authorities in Texas said on Saturday (29 April).
Five people, including an eight-year-old child and a 15-year-old girl, were killed in the Friday night violence, according to the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office.
The gunman, identified as 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza, shot his neighbours with an AR-15 style rifle after they asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they had children trying to sleep. Mr Oropeza fled the scene after the violence, but has since been surrounded by law enforcement, NPR reports.
“The neighbours walked over and said … ‘Hey man, can you not do that, we’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep’ or whatever,” Sheriff Greg Capers said, per the Washington Post. “They went back in their house and then we have a video of him walking up their driveway with his AR-15.”
The deceased, who ranged in age from eight to their early forties, were originally from Honduras. Authorities at the scene told reporters that Mr Oropeza, an illegal alien from Mexico, had been deported at least twice before the tragedy on Friday night, according to Univision 45 Houston.
Here’s everything we know about the shooting:
The shooting was reported at around 10.30pm on the 100 block of Walters Road in the Trails End area in the community about 45 miles (72 kilometres) northeast of Houston. Night shift patrol deputies were dispatched to a residence in reference to a harassment complaint.
On their way there, they received multiple 911 calls of an active shooter incident at the dispatch location. Three children covered in blood were transported to the hospital, where they were determined to be uninjured, while two other witnesses at the scene were evaluated by first responders and released.
The SJCSO also said that Mr Oropeza “has been known to shoot his 223 out in his front yard, which is evident by the shell casings that are laying in the front yard”.
The names of the victims have not been released pending notification to their next of kin, police said.
Authorities have said that a family member walked up to the fence and requested the gunman stopped shooting rounds in his own backyard. The suspect then allegedly responded that it was his property and the violence unfolded.
The youngest victim of the shooting was eight years old. Two female victims were found in the bedroom lying on top of two children who survived the ordeal, the report added.
“The Honduran ladies that were laying over these children were doing it in such an effort as to protect the child,” Mr Capers said.
Ten people were in the residence at the time of the tragedy.
The suspect has not been apprehended and it is unclear where in Texas he had been located. An earlier press release by the SJCSO stated that he was believed to have fled the country but more recent reports suggest he is in the Houston-Cleveland area.
One of the survivors reportedly caught the moment the suspect walked into the house with the rifle on video.
Mr Oropeza is described as approximately 5’8” tall, last seen wearing blue jeans with a black shirt and work boots and with short black hair, ABC reported.
More than 170 mass shooting in the US this year
The US is setting a devastating record pace for mass killings in 2023, according to the Associated Press. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas. All those listed as mass killings in the report have taken the lives of four or more people since 1 January.
Reacting to the deadly violence on Friday night, gun safety advocates slammed lax weapon laws in Texas.
“Assault rifles were designed to be used by highly trained soldiers in battle, not marketed to violent men to carry out revenge fantasies,” gun violence prevention activist and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts tweeted on Saturday. “From Newtown to Nashville, Las Vegas to Uvalde, these weapons of war are chosen and used to inflict as much harm as quickly as possible.”
Assault rifles were designed to be used by highly trained soldiers in battle, not marketed to violent men to carry out revenge fantasies.
From Newtown to Nashville, Las Vegas to Uvalde, these weapons of war are chosen and used to inflict as much harm as quickly as possible.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) April 29, 2023
Ms Watts went on to criticize Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s reaction — or lack thereof — to the massacre. The political leader, who tweeted a picture of his pet dog along with the caption “all smiles for the weekend” on Saturday, had yet to issue a statement regarding the shooting by midday on Saturday. The Independent has reached out to his office for comment.
“This is the Governor of Texas’ tweet AFTER learning that a gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire on a family in his state, killing five people, including an 8-year-old,” Ms Watts wrote.
Brett Cross, who lost his son Uziyah in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde last year, also lashed out at the Republican governor for not making mention of the deadly shooting.