|Police officers stand outside an apartment where seven people were killed on Christmas day in Grapevine [Reuters]|
A man suspected of opening fire on a family Christmas celebration in the US state of Texas was dressed in a Santa Claus suit when he killed six people and then himself, police have said.
Authorities on Monday continued their search for clues in Grapevine, a Dallas suburb dubbed the “Christmas Capital of Texas”, to explain the murder-suicide on Christmas Day that left the seven shot dead among unwrapped holiday presents.
Four women and three men, aged 18 to 60, were found in an adjoining kitchen and living room area when police entered the residence, police officer Robert Eberling said.
Two handguns were found near the bodies in the apartment that was decorated for the holiday with a Christmas tree.
The victims have not yet been identified, but Eberling said it appears they all died of gunshot wounds. He said authorities still don’t know what sparked the incident.
Todd Dearing, of the Grapevine police, said investigators believe that all the victims were related, but that some were only visiting and didn’t live in the apartment. He said police are looking for other relatives to inform.
He said police were performing a “meticulous” search of the apartment and he expects them to be on the scene for many hours.
Police and firefighters first rushed to the Lincoln Vineyards complex after receiving an open-ended emergency services call at about 11:30am, Eberling said.
“There was an open line. No one was saying anything,” he explained.
The apartment is located in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood of Grapevine, not far from the upscale Fort Worth neighborhood of Colleyville.
Many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and police said no neighbors reported hearing anything on a quiet Christmas morning when many people were not around.
Jose Fernandez, a 35-year-old heavy equipment mechanic who moved to the complex with his family about six months ago, said he always felt safe in the area, but is now afraid to let his 10-year-old son play freely outside.
“This has shocked everybody. It has scared everybody. I guess something like this can happen anywhere, but seven people dead. It’s just very scary,” he said.