Texas gunman kills five as neighbours complained of noise late at night

With more firearms than inhabitants, the United States has the highest rate of gun deaths of any developed country -- 49,000 in 2021, up from 45,000 the year before

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Houston James Smith speak to the media near the crime scene where five people, including an 8-year-old child, were killed after a shooting inside a home on 29 April, 2023 in Cleveland, TexasAFP

Police in Texas said they were searching Saturday for a man believed to have shot dead five neighbours after they asked him to stop firing his rifle in his yard late at night.

The victims, who were all from Honduras, included an eight-year-old child, the local sheriff said.

The drunken gunman apparently stormed into the crowded house and opened fire, reportedly infuriated by the request to stop shooting his semi-automatic weapon in his yard because the noise was keeping a baby awake.

Sheriff Greg Capers of San Jacinto County, which is north of Houston, described a horrifying scene when authorities arrived at the residence after receiving a call about “harassment” around 11:30 pm Friday.

The victims, aged from eight to 40 years old, were strewn from the front door through the house to an inside bedroom, where two women were found lying on top of two traumatised children who survived the massacre.

“In my opinion, they were actually trying to take care of the babies and keep them babies alive,” Capers told ABC’s Houston station KTRK.

All the victims had been shot “from the neck up, almost execution style, basically in the head,” he added.

Deputies found “several others in critical condition from multiple gunshot wounds,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. Three were hospitalised.

The suspect “had been drinking, and he says, ‘I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,’” the sheriff told KTRK.

“All the victims were from Honduras,” Capers told reporters, adding that 10 people had been in the house at the time.

The Honduran foreign minister, Enrique Reina, called for the gunman to face “the full weight of the law.” He said officials would follow the case closely.

Texas authorities said an arrest warrant had been issued for Francisco Oropeza, a 39-year-old Mexican national, charging him with five counts of murder.

“We’ve got his Mexican consulate card,” Capers said, adding that a security system at the victims’ house “captured him coming up to the front door with a weapon.”

The shooter is believed to have left the county, but the sheriff’s office has urged nearby residents were to stay home.

The FBI also launched a search for the suspect, requesting information on his whereabouts but warning people not to approach him.

The Texas killings appeared to be the latest in a series of shootings spawned by normally banal interactions: a man mistakenly knocking on the wrong door, a cheerleader accidentally stepping into the wrong car, someone mistakenly driving into the wrong driveway, a ball rolling into a neighbour’s yard.

There have been more than 170 mass shootings -- defined as four or more people wounded or killed -- so far this year in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

With more firearms than inhabitants, the United States has the highest rate of gun deaths of any developed country -- 49,000 in 2021, up from 45,000 the year before.