HOUSTON (AP) — Robin Ahrens was getting ready to go to work at a donut shop in the middle of the night when she heard a sound like fireworks coming from the parking lot behind her apartment house in southwest Houston.
Ahrens, 53, walked down the hall to investigate around 1am Sunday. He looked out the window and saw one of his neighbors in the compound standing behind a car and firing a rifle at another neighbor fleeing the fire which police say the gunman started luring them out of their room.
A few minutes later, Michael James, who had been working late at a restaurant, came home to his apartment and found his room on fire. After trying to call 911, James, 62, started walking away when he was shot in the back. The gunman ended up shooting five neighborskill three of them.
Bleeding, James fled to the front of the apartment house, where he found the Houston police. Officers found the gunman across the street in the parking lot of a medical supply store, where he was shot dead.
“I don’t know what happened to him. He just had a tantrum,” said James Monday, as he stood in front of his burning room, still wearing the green medical scrubber he had given him during his brief hospitalization the day before.
The owner of the apartment house, who identified the gunman as Roy Cravin, along with neighbors and police said the shooting may have been triggered by the man’s eviction on Saturday, which had been preceded by his financial difficulties during the pandemic and a recent diagnosis of colon cancer.
Authorities on Monday had not released the names of the shooters or the three people killed.
The deadly shooting in Houston was one of several in the US last weekend, including in Detroit and Portland, Oregonwhere people are confronted with random gun violence while at home or at the store or walking their dog.
Tony Mercurio, owner of the apartment house in Houston, said Cravin had been a tenant for nine years and he considered him a friend. But Mercurio said he made the tough decision to evict Cravin after he had not paid his rent for a year.
Mercurio said there seemed to be no feeling of sadness when he went to Cravin’s room at around 8am Saturday and retrieved the key.
Cravin had worked as a bouncer at a club but lost his job when the business closed during the pandemic, Mercurio said.
“Something happened in his head that I’m not sure what it was,” Mercurio said.
Ahrens said Cravin first shot dead the apartment house manager, who lived on the site. He also injured the man’s dog, a German shepherd named Duke. The dog, whose leg was injured, fled but was later found. Cravin then shot dead two other people, police said. Two other men, including James, were shot and injured and one had minor injuries.
“They were good people who were killed,” Mercurio said of the residents and their manager, who had worked for him since 1989.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, the gunman opened fire at them and they were forced to take cover until police shot him dead, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said. No firefighters or officers were injured.
Mercurio said the fire destroyed eight of the 16 units but he plans to rebuild the apartment house, which offers residents a shared bathroom and kitchen. Refugees will be offered an empty room in another apartment house belonging to Mercurio.
Ahrens says she doesn’t want to move because she won’t be able to afford transportation because she doesn’t have a car and usually walks to work. James said he was focused on trying to rebuild after losing everything in the fire. On Monday, he was wearing gray pants that someone gave him because all his clothes were on fire.
The American Red Cross has given each of the residents of the apartment a $500 gift card to help them make up for what they lost.
“Every little bit helps,” Ahrens said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70