AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man went next door with a rifle and began shooting his neighbors, killing an 8-year-old and four others inside the house, after the family asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they were trying to sleep, authorities said Saturday.
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told reporters at the scene that authorities were still searching for 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza following the overnight shooting in the town of Cleveland, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Houston. He said Oropeza used an AR-style rifle in the shooting.
“Everyone that was shot was shot from the neck up, almost execution-style,” Capers said during an earlier news conference at the scene.
Capers said there were 10 people in the house and that no one else was injured. He said two of the victims, all believed to be from Honduras, were found laying over two children inside.
“The Honduran ladies that were laying over these children were doing it in such an effort as to protect the child,” according to Capers, who said a total of three blood-covered children were found in the home but were determined to be uninjured after being taken to a hospital.
Capers said two other people were examined at the scene and released.
The confrontation followed family members walking up to the fence and asking the suspect to stop shooting rounds, Capers said. The suspect responded by telling them that it was his property, according to Capers, and that one person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle.
Three of the victims were women and one was a man. Their names were not released. Capers said the victims were between the ages of 8 and about 40 years old.
Authorities have previously been to the suspect’s home, according to Capers. “Deputies have come over and spoke with him about him shooting his gun in the yard,” he said.
Capers said some of those in the house had just moved from Houston earlier in the week, but he did not know whether they were planning to stay there.
The U.S. is on a record pace for mass killings this year, with at least 18 shootings since Jan. 1 that left four or more people dead. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas.
Associated Press writer Ken Miller contributed to this report.