GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — A gunman opened fire at a child’s birthday celebration at a Texas roller rink, killing five people, wounding four others and then killing himself as the private party turned to panic and some fled screaming in their skates, police and witnesses say.
Authorities ascribed the gunman’s rampage to an apparent domestic dispute and said no young children or rink employees were killed during the shooting that erupted about 7 p.m. at Forum Roller World in Grand Prairie, about 20 miles west of Dallas. Some people at nearby businesses said they watched as adults and children spilled from the rink in horror.
“They just looked terrified,” Cody Poston, a witness, told WFAA-TV, outside the rink that was festooned with birthday decorations. “There’s several people crying. The kids were just kind of oblivious.”
Authorities did not immediately release the victims’ names or ages or say how the gunman may have been related to those who died.
Police said the gunman began arguing with a woman in Forum Roller World’s front area where the party was being held, although the rink was not open to the public because the family had rented it for several hours for the private party.
Grand Prairie police spokesman John Brimmer said investigators were still trying to determine how many people were inside the building when the shots rang out. Police were called about 7:10 p.m. about reports of shots fired and some reports said officers entered with guns drawn, encountering the dead and wounded.
Wounded survivors were taken to hospitals, and their conditions weren’t immediately disclosed. Grief counselors were available for witnesses, victims and family members, Police Chief Steve Dye said.
Dye told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram a domestic disturbance apparently erupted between a husband and wife, but he did not elaborate because the investigation was continuing. The ages of those shot were not released.
“We are still working on identifying the victims, and we are still working on notifying the families,” Dye said. “Certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.”
Derrian Harris, 18, of Grand Prairie said he rushed to the rink Saturday night after hearing about the shootings. He said he usually goes there every Friday night and was worried about whether any of his friends were hurt, but later believed that he didn’t know any of the victims. He said he has never seen so much as a fight at the rink.
“All kinds of people come here to skate, and everybody gets along,” Harris said.
Great Southwest Parkway, a major street in an industrial area in front of the rink, was partially blocked off after the shooting. About a dozen police vehicles with lights flashing and a few fire trucks were parked nearby, with a mobile command station in front of the building. For hours overnight, investigators continued walking in and out of the building and bodies were still inside.
Aaron Feldt told WFAA-TV he was standing across the street at a bowling alley when he heard the shots.
“I saw family coming across the street,” he said, adding he could see the “panic in their eyes.”
Byron Raspberry of Grand Prairie said his children go to the rink frequently because it is near their home.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Raspberry said. “I don’t feel safe at all.”