By Christine Fernando, Ryan W. Miller and Grace Hauck
Two families were gathered to celebrate birthdays at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, mobile home Sunday when a man who had been dating one of the women at the party entered the residence and fatally shot her and five others before taking his own life, police said Tuesday.
“At the core of this horrendous act is domestic violence. The suspect who was in a relationship with one of the victims displayed power and control issues,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski said. “When he wasn’t invited to a family gathering, the suspect responded by opening fire and killing six victims before taking his own life.”
Seven adults and three children – 2, 5 and 11 – were present during the shooting, Lt. Joe Frabbiele said. The children were unharmed and “were in close proximity to the shooting event” and witnessed what happened “to some degree,” he said.
“We’ve got children orphaned by this situation,” Niski said.
The victims were identified as Sandra Ibarra-Perez, 28; Jose Ibarra, 26; Mayra Ibarra De Perez, 33; Melvin Perez, 30; Jose Gutierrez, 21; and Joana Cruz, 52.
Mayra Ibarra De Perez and Melvin Perez were married and present with their children, police said. Mayra’s siblings Sandra and Jose were also present. The party was at the home of Melvin’s mother, Joana Cruz, and stepfather. Joana’s son, Jose Gutierrez, was present.
The shooter – Teodoro Macias, 28 – entered the home and shot all six victims “in quick succession” before shooting himself, Frabbiele said. Police received three 911 calls, including one from a neighbor, one from inside the residence capturing the sound of “rapid gunfire” and one from a family member who escaped the residence.
Three teenagers – 16, 16 and 18 – had left the gathering at the time to get something at a neighbor’s house, Frabbiele said.
“They returned to the residence to discover what happened prior to police arrival. They attempted to render aid and gave shelter to the younger children,” Frabbiele said.
Five victims and the gunman died on the scene, and a sixth victim – Jose Gutierrez – was taken to the hospital for “advanced lifesaving efforts.” He died at the hospital, Frabbiele said.
One young child and “some” teenagers lost both parents, Niski said. The children are now with relatives.
Police found one firearm, a Smith and Wesson 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and two 15-round magazines, Frabbiele said. One magazine was empty, and one was still loaded. Officers found 17 shell casings, he said.
The gun was purchased from a dealer in 2014 at a local gun store, but the shooter did not buy the firearm during that transaction, Frabbiele said. The gun had not been reported stolen, and police were still investigating how the gunman came to possess it, he said.
The shooting is the 13th mass killing this year and the second mass killing in Colorado this year, according to a USA TODAY, Northeastern University and The Associated Press database, which defines a mass killing as those in which four or more people were killed, not including the assailant. In March, 10 people were killed in Boulder when a gunman opened fire at a King Soopers grocery store.
Columbine, Aurora and now Boulder:Colorado has the sixth-highest rate of public mass killings
Niski said the Colorado Springs killing was the most shooting victims the city has ever seen and the fourth-most in Colorado. The incident shines a light on the lethality of domestic violence, he said.
“In Colorado, we’ve had domestic terrorism incidents where lots of people were killed. We’ve had random acts like going into a King Soopers or a movie theater. But let’s not forget about the lethality of domestic violence,” Niski said. “Twenty to 25% of the victims of homicides related to domestic violence are not the people involved in the relationship.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, crime report data indicates about 1 in 5 homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner. Over half of female homicide victims are killed by a current or former male partner, the CDC says.
Sandra Ibarra-Perez and the gunman had been in a relationship for about a year, police said.
“The suspect had a history of controlling and jealous behavior toward the victim. This behavior in particular was most obvious with trying to isolate her from her family, making efforts to prevent her from attending family events.
Colorado Springs police said they had no previously reported incidents of domestic violence incidents in the relationship, and the victim did not have an order of protection.
The gunman does not have a criminal history, Frabbiele said.
‘How can this happen here?’ Police seek motive after gunman kills 6, then self, at Colorado birthday party
A small crowd of mourners Monday left bouquets of yellow roses and devotional candles on a small table set up in front of the home.
Freddy Marquez told the Denver Post he was at the party before the shooting with his wife and children, and the victims were all of the same extended family. The party was to celebrate his wife’s and her brother’s birthdays, but Marquez said his family left around 10 p.m. because his wife had to work the next day.
When his wife woke up the next morning, she saw numerous missed calls. Marquez’s wife’s mother, two brothers and three extended family members died.
“It’s just crazy; it’s not what we expected on Mother’s Day,” he told the Post. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Neighbor Gladis Bustos told The Associated Press the home’s owner, Joana, was a warmhearted, hardworking person who always took the time to say hello to her neighbors.
“She was an incredibly pleasant woman, very beautiful, happy all the time,” Bustos told the Associated Press. “She loved to chat. And she was very proud of her family.”
“We’re all in shock,” she added. “How can this happen here? This is all so painful, so devastating, so overwhelming.”
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers asked for patience during the investigation. Gov. Jared Polis offered condolences in a Sunday statement.
“The tragic shooting in Colorado Springs is devastating… Multiple lives were taken today by this terrible act of violence,” he said in the statement. “Families torn apart, and at a birthday party no less.”
If you are a victim of domestic violence, The National Domestic Violence Hotline allows you to speak confidentially with trained advocates online or by the phone, which they recommend for those who think their online activity is being monitored by their abuser (800-799-7233). They can help survivors develop a plan to achieve safety.
Safe Horizon’s hotline offers crisis counseling, safety planning, and assistance finding shelters 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). It also has a chat feature where you can reach out for help from a computer or phone confidentially.
Survivors can call the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s 24/7 English/Spanish hotline at 212-714-1141 and get support. If calling is not safe but email is possible, make a report at avp.org/get-help and leave safe contact information, and someone will reach out.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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