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Police, Neighbors Recount the Deadly Memorial Day Weekend Shooting

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Tammie and her family were just walking out the door to head to the movie theater when they heard the buzzing sound of helicopters overhead. It struck her husband as odd, and so he told the kids to wait a second as he checked it out. And then the second he stepped outside, he heard what Tammie, who requested we not use her last name for privacy reasons, said sounded like “firecrackers on the driveway”: the gunshots.

They hurried their kids — ages three, six and eight — back inside and into an interior room away from any windows. After a while, Tammie and her husband stepped out on the front porch and shielded themselves against the brick wall, trying to listen to what was going on. Their neighbor was stealthily moving in and out of their yard and the yard of the family next door, barefoot, and was running at cars who were headed to the Methodist church on Memorial Drive for Sunday service, telling them to turn around — there's a man with a gun shooting at everyone. Tammie and her husband saw him crouch behind their neighbor's tree, in what looked like a military position — and just then, the gunman fired from more than a quarter mile away and struck her neighbor's car and her own white truck. The windows shattered into pieces on the driveway.

Tammie and her husband rushed back inside and hurried the kids to an even more insulated room. They turned on the movie Ice Age to distract them and stayed hidden for the next hour. Her six-year-old told her, “Mom, I'm too young to die.”

Tammie's family was among dozens who sheltered in place in their homes, near the intersection of Memorial Drive and Wycliffe Drive in west Houston, as a lone gunman fired a total of 212 rounds at innocent passersby. One person was killed and six other people, including two Harris County Precinct 5 deputies, were injured before a SWAT team took down the gunman roughly one hour after shots were first fired.

Police said that the rampage started around 10:15 a.m., when, in the parking lot of Memorial Hand Car Wash, the gunman walked up behind the owner who was talking to a longtime customer through the window of his Mercedes and fatally shot the driver, identified as 56-year-old Eugene Linscomb, with a pistol. The owner, named Felicia Nichols, told the Houston Chronicle that the gunman said he would not kill her and her husband, co-owner Paris Nichols, because they were Christians. He apparently then began denouncing Jews, gay people and Walmart while Felicia and Paris fled across the street to take shelter at Chase Bank. Police said the gunman must have gone back into the body shop that shares a lot with the car wash to retrieve his AR-15 assault rifle — they believe he had broken into the shop Saturday evening and stayed there overnight, though they are not certain why he chose this specific spot.

Police arrived on scene around 10:22 a.m., according to HPD Homicide Division Lieutenant John McGalin, and immediately secured the perimeter. The gunman shot at the police as soon as they arrived, striking at least two officers. He also began firing roughly five rounds into the HPD helicopter circling the area, and also shot at the Conoco gas station, causing a gas line to explode. 

One of the injured civilians, named John Wilson, had come out of his home armed with two weapons and, according to McGalin, had sought to help the police out. But before he could fire any shots, the gunman shot him in the leg. He was still in the ICU Tuesday night in stable condition; the three other injured civilians and two police officers were all expected to recover from non-life-threatening wounds.

Around 11:10 a.m., a SWAT sniper, who had posted up in a civilian's home roughly 100 yards away, fired four rounds at the gunman, killing him.

On Wednesday, police identified the gunman as a military veteran who was discharged in 2013 and suffered from depression. His parents had also told other news sources that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours in Afghanistan. McGalin said the man had moved from San Bernardino County, California, last Wednesday in order to visit with friends and arrived on Saturday. However, around 4 p.m. that day, McGalin said, the man stopped responding to texts or calls from family and friends. They found writings inside the body shop where he apparently camped out, though McGalin declined to elaborate on what he wrote. McGalin said they don't believe this was a hate crime or related to any terrorist group. He said the man appeared to be having a mental health crisis.

Outside her home Wednesday, Tammie said the kids already know too much. After everything had settled, and after the SWAT crews came through and checked on everyone to make sure they were okay, her three-year-old explained that there was a bad man with a gun up by the building with the red roof, the car wash.

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