A Texas A&M University-Commerce homecoming party was the scene of a mass shooting early Sunday morning, October 27, 2019, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office says. At least two people were killed and 14 others were injured in the shooting. A graphic video of the aftermath was posted on Snapchat and shared on Twitter.
On October 28, Hunt County Police identified the suspected gunman as Brandon Ray Gonzales. According to Hunt County Jail records, Gonzales, 23, 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 come up
The video showed numerous victims bleeding from gunshot wounds at The Party Venue in Greenville, Texas, which is located 20 miles away from the school’s campus. The October 26 Halloween themed Homecoming party was not sanctioned by the university, the school says. On Sunday, police reported that 8 victims suffered from gunshot wounds, two were deceased, four remained in critical condition at the hospital, while one was in fair condition.
The victims killed in the shooting were both men, police said. One of the victims has been identified by his family as Kevin Berry. The other victim was identified as Byron Craven. Both were 23 years old.Authorities said about four or five of the wounded victims were students at Texas A&M Commerce.
The shooting occurred just after midnight Sunday, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said at a press conference. Deputies had been dispatched to the scene of the party earlier for a parking complaint and were at the venue when shots were fired about 12:05 a.m.
Meeks said at the time, “We believe this was a separate incident. There might have been somebody there who was targeted, we’re not for certain, we’re still following up on those leads.”
CBSDFW tweeted, “Hunt County officials confirm multiple people shot at a party venue outside Greenville. Three air ambulances took victims to Medical City Plano, a trauma hospital. Other victims were taken to hospitals in Greenville, Quinlan and Commerce.”
Buddy Oxford of the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office initially said that the weapon used was a semi-automatic rifle, but authorities later said a handgun was used. There was confusion at the scene caused by rifle shells found on the ground, but investigators determined those were fake and were props for a Halloween party.
Deputies were first called to the scene because of parking complaints along US Highway 380, and the shooting took place 15 minutes later. Texas Rangers are assisting in the investigation, as is the FBI and the ATF.
Dispatch audio also gave some details. Police dispatch audio recorded by the Hunt County scanner page on Broadcastify stated one person was shot in the neck. You can listen to the audio later in this story. At one point on the scanner early on, an officer referred to seven victims.
Greenville, Texas, is a city of about 25,000 people located about 50 miles northeast of Dallas.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Extremely Disturbing Video Showed Multiple Wounded People Lying on the Ground as Others Desperately Tried to Help The Victims
The video posted online was incredibly graphic and showed numerous bodies lying on the floor covered in blood. People can be heard in the background screaming, as people attend to those injured and bleeding. It’s a scene of mass chaos and confusion while people help 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.
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said more than 750 people were at the party “in and around” the “small structure” that was hosting the event. “When the shots were fired it was complete chaos as people fled for safety and deputies attempted to locate the shooter,” Meeks said. “Deputies attempted to make their way inside and at 12:10 a.m. they notified dispatch that there were multiple victims.”
Meeks said the suspect fled the scene during the chaos. The partygoers included college-aged people and students from Texas A&M University-Commerce, authorities said. “The shooter came through the back door,” Meeks said. “And his first victim we think may have been his target victim …. and the rest of them were just random.” He said that is based on theory and circumstantial evidence.
Hunt County deputies had been dispatched to the party about 11:30 p.m. local time for a parking issue and were talking to an intoxicated person when the first shots were fired. The deputies had been at the scene since about 11:45 p.m.
Listen to the first scanner reports below, courtesy of Broadcastify. The first one is pretty brief and starts at about 25 minutes in. It then picks up with the second audio file below.
Meeks praised his deputies who were at the scene when gunfire began. “The sergeant on scene quickly assessed that one shooting victim had life-threatening injuries and he loaded the victim in his patrol vehicle and transported him to a local hospital for treatment, while a second deputy began to triage the victims on scene for paramedics. I believe their actions may have saved lives,” Meeks said.
“It was mass chaos with people trying to exit the building,” Meeks said. “Some of the injuries were from broken glass, they were breaking the glass of the windows trying to get out of the building. My deputies said there were like four abreast trying to get out the front door, which was just like a regular door opening. So it was mass confusion when the shooting started.”
2. Gonzales Has Been Taken Into Custody, But a Motive for the Shooting Is Not Yet Known
Gonzales was taken into custody on Monday afternoon, and was charged for “capital murder for multiple persons,” according to the Hunt County Jail Records.
Initially, witnesses did not tell investigators if the gunman said anything, according to Meeks. He said some witnesses are not cooperating.
“It appalls me that as many folks as were there have not been able to give us a better description of this shooter,” Meeks said. He said he wasn’t sure if they were willingly not providing information about the 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.”
A heartbreaking video posted on Facebook showed a distraught man said that his brother had been lying there for 30 minutes. My brother “got killed,” he said. Another man told him they’re working on finding out who did “all this.” The man continued angrily discussing what happened. “My brother’s in that building, still laying down.”
The video had been viewed 18,000 times. One woman wrote in the comments, “Heartbreaking……so sorry, so so sorry…..he’s in shock. Who wouldn’t be ? Dear God….his brothers dead…..”
3. The Party Venue Is an 8,000-Square-Foot Performance & Event Space THat Hosting a ‘Twerk or Treat’ Halloween Homecoming Party
Texas A&M at Commerce University 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.
“During the course of this investigation, it was learned that this was a homecoming party for Texas A&M Commerce and we have been in touch with their police department and have determined that this was not a college-sanctioned event,” Meeks said.
Meeks said it was hosted by The Goodfellas, a group from Commerce, but not an official university fraternity. Some of those involved in the group are students at the university, authorities said. The event was heavily advertised on social media in the weeks leading up to it, with a large crowd expected because it was homecoming weekend at TAMUC. Students from other nearby colleges and universities were also expected to attend, including Texas State, Tyler Junior College, Prairie View A&M, University of North Texas and TCU.
He said those in the building were in their late teens and early 20s. “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. The sheriff said the facility was “packed.”
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.
When asked if there was a history of overcrowded events or incidents at The Party Venue, Meeks said, “We’ve been out there before on calls, I don’t think there’s ever been this many people at one time at this place.”
Sheriff Meeks said, “I think the amount of people who were there, just the overcrowdedness of it, it gave the shooter the opportunity to be able to accomplish whatever he wanted to accomplish. 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.”
He added that the security guard was at the front door and the shooter came in through the back door. The deputies were also at the front of the building. “Our officers were there, but with the amount of people there, they were never able to lay eyes on the shooter, they looked for him, but we weren’t able to find him,” Meeks said.
4. One of the Victims Killed in the Shooting Was a ‘Young Father’ Who Had ‘Just Started His Adult Life’ & Gunshots Broke Out During His Vigil on Sunday Night
A GoFundMe account was set up by an apartment property manager in Dallas for her neighbor’s son, who has two children. He has been identified by family members as Kevin Berry, who also was known as “Choppaboy Wess.”
His family friend 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!”
The second was identified as Byron Craven.
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.
5. One of the Event’s Organizers Said on Twitter, ‘I Hate Lame A** Individuals That Take the Lives of Others’
Thoughts and prayers for the victims of the shooting and their families were quickly shared on social media as the video of the aftermath and bloody scene was spread. While the shooting did not take place on campus at Texas A&M University-Commerce, it was an event where many of the university’s students were invited.
One of the event’s organizers tweeted, “No mother or father should have to bury their child . This wasn’t suppose to happen tonight. I hate lame a** individuals that take the lives of others!!! Praying ?? for the family ?”
He added in another tweet, “I hate wack ass ni**as that come to a lit great a** event and try to being negative energy around !!!”
Texas A&M-Commerce is a public university, and the third-largest institution of the A&M University system.
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.”
Sheriff Meeks said the FBI volunteered to help with the investigation.
“We welcome them to come and help us. I think they realized this is a pretty big case and we’re a small law enforcement agency and they’ve always been very gracious to lend their hand any time they’re needed,” Meeks said.
Meeks said they usually have a patrol sergeant and four officers on duty during the night shift and they all responded to the scene, along with officers and investigators from other state, federal and local agencies.”