Brandon Ray Gonzales has been accused for the mass shooting which took place just after midnight at a non-school sanctioned Homecoming party for Texas A&M University at Commerce on Saturday night, according to the Hunt County Sheriff’s office. A graphic video of the aftermath was captured on Snapchat and posted on Twitter. In the video, there appears to be numerous victims at The Party Venue in Greenville, Texas, which is located 20 miles away from the school’s campus.
According to Hunt County Jail records, Gonzales is being held on $1 million bail and on a charge of “capital murder of multiple persons.” On October 28, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said that they arrested him at work at a local auto dealership, but they had not yet found a motive. In a search of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s database, Gonzales has no history of criminal convictions that come up.
UPDATE:On Tuesday, November 5, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office said they released Gonzales from custody, which came after a week of friends and family members protesting that the police had arrested the wrong suspect. Sheriff Randy Meeks said in a statement on Tuesday that investigators thought they’d had a credible case until “discovery of exculpatory evidence during the course of the investigation.”
A total of eight people were shot at The Party Venue at around 12:05 a.m. local time on October 27. The two deceased victims were identified as Kevin Berry, 23, and Byron Craven, also 23. On Sunday afternoon, the police said four gunshot wound victims remained in critical condition, with one in fair condition.
Police were originally called to The Party Venue, which is located at 2275 Highway 380, for illegal parking complaints along the road, and the shooting broke out 15 minutes later. The Homecoming party, “Twerk or Treat,” was hosted by The Goodfellas, a group from Commerce, but not an official university fraternity. CBSDFW tweeted, Hunt County officials said, “Three air ambulances took victims to Medical City Plano, a trauma hospital. Other victims were taken to hospitals in Greenville, Quinlan and Commerce.”
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said the amount of people at the event, which was way over capacity with nearly 750 people in and outside The Party Venue helped the suspect escape. “I think the amount of people who were there, just the over crowdedness of it, it gave the shooter the opportunity to be able to accomplish whatever he wanted to accomplish,” Meeks said. “When you have this many people in one place, it’s an easy target for somebody. And we just had one security guard there, there was no way he could control everything that went on there.”
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Police Said Witnesses Were ‘Uncooperative’ In Helping Identify the Suspect
During Hunt County Sheriff’s Office first press briefing, Deputy Buddy Oxford said that there was only one shooter, and the suspect’s weapon was a handgun, not a rifle as previously reported. On Sunday, the suspect has not yet been identified, and was still at large. Texas Rangers were assisting in the investigation, as is the FBI.
Sheriff Meeks said, “It appalls me that as many folks as were there have not been able to give us a better description of this shooter. I just know we haven’t been able to get much cooperation. With this many people there, normally we would have at least a pretty good description of the shooter.”
Texas A&M Commerce put out a statement to CBS11 reporter Giles Hudson, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families, and friends of those affected by this morning’s shooting in Greenville, Texas. Texas A&M University-Commerce leadership and the University’s Police Department are working with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office to determine if any of those shot or injured are A&M-Commerce students. This event did not occur on the A&M-Commerce campus. Counseling services are immediately available to A&M-Commerce students at (903) 886-5145.”
2.The Gruesome Video Showed Multiple Wounded People Lying on the Ground & Covered in Blood While Others Screamed for Help to Assist the Victims.
The original video posted online was incredibly graphic and showed numerous bodies lying on the floor motionless, surrounded by pools of blood. Voices could be heard in the background screaming, as people attend to those injured and bleeding. It’s a chaotic and terrifying scene as people rushed to attend the victims who were shot. Heavy has reviewed, but is choosing not to run, the video because of its graphic nature.
A woman retweeted the gruesome video on Facebook and wrote, “My daughter is in this video. God cover my child tonight.” Another wrote, “My daughter is (sic) wants to come home. This is her first college experience and to mess up because of violence. I hate that for my child. Her step brother was killed.”
Here is another video that is far less graphic.
3. The Party Venue Is an 8,000 Square Foot Performance & Event Space Hosting the ‘Twerk or Treat’ Halloween Homecoming Party
Texas A&M at Commerce was in the midst of celebrating their annual Homecoming celebration, which kicked off on Monday, October 21, and concluded on Saturday, October 26, with the Lion Football game against Western New Mexico. In the evening, a Halloween party entitled “Twerk or Treat,” a costume party, was located at 2275 Highway 380 in Greenville, a non-school sanctioned party from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“There was evidence of Halloween costumes,” Meeks said. “There was some fake bullets laying on the floor there, I think maybe from a Halloween getup. But definitely was a Halloween homecoming party.”
According to The Party Venue’s Facebook page, it is an 8,000 square foot facility that includes acres of parking. Highway 380 was closed while The Party Venue was being investigated as an active crime scene, but reopened to traffic around 3 a.m. local time.
Meeks said the owner of The Party Venue, Heath Jackson, has been cooperative in the investigation and gave them consent to search the building. Meeks said there was one off-duty police officer from the Farmersville Independent School District who was working as security at the venue. “That was it,” Meeks said.
4. Prayers for the Victims & Families Quickly Poured Online
Even with so little information, after viewing the video of the crime scene, thoughts and prayers flooded online. The two victims were identified as Byron Craven and Kevin Berry. They were both 23.
A Go Fund Me account for Nakima Alexander’s son, Kenny Berry, one of the victims identified by his family, was set up on Saturday night. Also known as “Choppasboy Wess,” a friend of the family wrote on the fundraising page,
“He’s a young father & just started his adult life… He was with his younger brother & friends @ the party when gunfire broke out & several people were shot. There is videos of it all over Facebook. She is a personal friend of mine & a tenant at the complex I manage & MY UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR. Tonight when I got home I heard her & her teen children screaming threw the walls & I ran up there. Her baby girl fell in my arms and just screamed for her brother. He wasn’t at the party causing problems he DIDNT have a altercation with anyone he was a victim to a random shooter along with 4/5 other people. She’s a struggling single mom & im putting this in her name & all $ will go directly to her account to burry her son. I’ll update once we know a price the funeral home wants it just happened but I can’t even imagine grieving the loose of a child, comforting her other kids & grand kids!”
5. Gunshots Broke Out During a Vigil on Sunday Night
During a vigil being held for Berry at St. Augustine Park in Pleasant Grove, Dallas Police Department reported that officers responded to a shooting at the site around 8:07 p.m. local time. Police spokeswoman Tamika Dameron said there were no injuries reported, but several vehicles were damaged by gunfire.
NBC reporter Diana Zoga’s vehicle was one of those hit by gunfire, but said that neither she nor her photographer were injured.
To take precaution, a vigil which was scheduled to take place on Monday was cancelled.