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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — As music blared from Forum Roller World’s loudspeakers, children skated and adults mingled at an 11-year-old Texas boy’s birthday party — until his father suddenly pulled out a gun.
Shouting at kids to leave the snack area, 35-year-old Tan Do opened fire on his estranged wife and her family — killing her, her teenage sister and three other adults before fatally shooting himself in a rampage that lasted just a few terrifying moments.
“Kids were having fun and all of a sudden: ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’” said Walt Hedrick, owner the Grand Prairie roller rink about 20 miles west of Dallas. “It was out of the clear blue. ... I didn’t know what was going on.”
Hedrick, who was about 40 feet away when the shooting began Saturday night, pushed some youngsters down and ushered them and employees into an office to hide.
“There was nothing anyone could do,” Hedrick said Sunday.
Officers arrived quickly after the 7 p.m. shooting, ordering everyone to remain on the ground and shouting for someone to turn off the music.
“I didn’t realize it was playing,” Hedrick said.
Police said Do, of Grand Prairie, and his wife were estranged after ongoing marital problems and may have argued before the shooting. A public records search showed no criminal record for Do.
Police identified those killed as his wife Trini Do, 29, of Grand Prairie; her sisters Lynn Ta, 16, and Michelle Ta, 28; her brother, Hien Ta, 21; and her sister-in-law, Thuy Nguyen, 25.
About 30 friends and relatives were attending the birthday party, some from out of town, and the rink was closed to the public for the private party. The wounded were taken to hospitals Saturday night with non-life-threatening injuries, but information about them was not being released Sunday.
The couple’s 11-year-old son and their other child are safe and with other relatives, Detective John Brimmer said.
Hedrick said he decided to re-open his business Sunday afternoon because, though shaken and mourning the loss of the victims, he knows the shooting was random.
“Roller skating for years and years has been the only place that an adult or parent would drop their little girl off on a Friday night and feel safe that we were going to take care of them, and that’s exactly what we all do,” Hedrick said. “I’m not going to run from this. We’re going to be open and we’re going to be doing the same thing.”
On Sunday, people placed teddy bears outside the Forum Roller World doors and a sign with the message “God Bless the Prairie.” A smaller message on the sign read, “Walt and staff, you have been a beacon light to this community. This too shall pass.”