Gunfire erupted near a vigil for one of two victims slain in a weekend shooting at an off-campus homecoming party for Texas A&M University-Commerce, even as a massive manhunt was going on for the suspected killer of the man being mourned, authorities said.
Friends and loved ones of Kevin Berry Jr., 23, were gathered in St. Augustine Park in Dallas around 7 p.m. Sunday when someone started shooting in a parking lot, sending mourners scrambling for cover.
A news crew from ABC affiliate station WFAA-TV was at the vigil and recorded footage of the chaos that occurred when dozens of gunshots rang out.
The gunfire came toward the end of the vigil for Berry, a father of two, after his grieving sister, Taviara, told WFAA her family has been “torn apart” by her brother’s untimely death.
“This is senselessness how shootings like this happen,” she said just moments before gunfire sent panic through those congregated to remember Berry.
“My brother was a good person,” Taviara said. “He took care of his family, he loved everybody, and he didn’t have any enemies.”
No one was injured in the St. Augustine Park shooting.
Berry was one of two men killed early Sunday when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded off-campus party to celebrate the Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions football team’s homecoming victory on Saturday over Western New Mexico, according to the Hunts County Sheriff’s Office. More than a dozen other people were shot or injured in the stampede to get out of the building, officials said.
The gunman who opened fire escaped by apparently blending into the crowd of terrified revelers running from the party venue, police said.
Investigators were still trying to identify the suspect on Monday. The only description given to investigators is that the gunman was a man and was wearing a blue hoodie, police said.
Hunts County Sheriff Randy Meeks said about 750 people were at the party when the deadly gunfire erupted just after midnight on Sunday.
Meeks said the homecoming event was not sanctioned by Texas A&M University-Commerce, but many students from the school 65 miles northeast of Dallas attended the party in Greenville, Texas.
Mark Rudin, president of the university, said in a statement that four students enrolled at the school were among those injured in the shooting.
Rudin said in an updated statement on Monday that counselors will be made available to students heading back to classes and that group support sessions would also be organized for students.
“Collectively, we will work to overcome the pain, hurt, and sorrow that many within the Lion Family are feeling,” Rudin said in his statement.
Meeks said the shooting at the homecoming party occurred about 15 minutes after a Hunts County Sheriff’s Department sergeant and deputy were sent to the scene after getting a complaint about vehicles illegally parked on the shoulder of a nearby highway.
He said a group called Good Fellows hosted the event and had hired a police officer from nearby Farmersville to provide security.
Meeks said the unidentified gunman entered the venue through a back door and immediately shot one man with a handgun and then turned his weapon on the crowd of partygoers, many dressed in Halloween costumes.
“His first victim, we think, may have been his target victim and the rest of them are just random,” Meeks said, adding that at least 10 victims were wounded by gunfire and others were hurt in the rush to get out of the building.
One witness, Ashley Johnson, told WFAA that she was with a friend when they heard four or five shots.
“Me and my friend just instantly ducked, tried to crawl to the front,” Johnson said.
She and her friend got separated when she followed a crowd into the kitchen. She said a young man whom she didn’t know helped her and others climb out a broken window.
“I don’t know who he was but I thank him,” Johnson said.
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