A father is suspected of shooting his estranged wife and four children before turning the gun on himself in a murder-suicide at a home in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego on Saturday, police said.
All have died except for one child, who was in critical condition and in surgery, said homicide Lt. Matt Dobbs.
The children who were shot range in age from 3 to 11. Police initially identified the eldest child as the lone survivor but later said it was too early to tell.
The first 911 call from a granny flat on Flintridge Drive near Bolivar Street came in at 6:49 a.m., Dobbs said. The caller didn’t speak, but the dispatcher heard the sound of arguing in the background, as well as someone being asked to leave.
While officers were headed to the home, a family member who lives in the main house on the property called 911 and reported hearing arguing and what sounded like a nail gun being fired, Dobbs said.
Officers received no answer when they knocked on the front door of the granny flat, so they walked around back and through a window could see a child on the floor covered in blood, Dobbs said.
The officers then broke out a front window and once inside found the rest of the family suffering from gunshot wounds. A 3-year-old boy, his 29-year-old mother and his 31-year-old father were dead. Three other sons, ages 5, 9 and 11, were taken to the hospital, where two died. The third was critically wounded.
Their names have not been released.
“It appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence murder-suicide,” Dobbs said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. “Using a handgun, he shot his family before turning the gun on himself.”
A gun was found inside the house.
The estranged wife had obtained a restraining order against the suspected gunman the day before, Dobbs said, although he added that it was still unclear whether it had been served when the shooting occurred.
Dobbs said the mother and four children lived in the granny flat adjacent to the main house, where other family members lived. It was unclear how many people total lived in the compound.
Her estranged husband had not been living there for some time.
Police were last called to the granny flat Nov. 1 after the estranged husband had arrived and asked for tools from his wife, authorities said.
Officers were there to preserve the peace, police said. Police Chief David Nisleit said counseling was being provided to the first responders, some of whom carried the children out of the house to get medical treatment.
Some of the officers have newborns of their own at home, he said.
“These are the toughest kind of calls we have to respond to,” Nisleit said.
Some neighbors said they didn’t know the family but often saw the children outside playing with their dog or riding their bicycles.
“They were just living the kids’ life on the outside, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors,” said Gabriel Durazo, 36, who moved into the neighborhood about three years ago.
Wilkens and Davis write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.