A man wielding a shotgun allegedly killed three of his neighbors after setting fire early Sunday to multiple units at a Houston rental complex, including one he was recently evicted from, apparently to lure the victims into an ambush, police said.
The suspect, described as a Black man in his 40s, was shot to death outside the burning residences by a police officer who arrived at the scene as Houston firefighters came under fire and were forced to retreat, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference on Sunday.
"This suspect, unfortunately, and very sadly, very evilly, set fire to several residences, laid (in) wait for those residents to come out and fired upon them," Finner said.
The episode unfolded just after 1 a.m. Sunday in a southwest Houston neighborhood.
Finner said the suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was recently informed he was being evicted from his room. But Finner said a motive is still under investigation.
"He's been a longtime resident here and that may have been a trigger point for him. I don't know, but that's part of the investigation," Finner said.
The chief said multiple 911 calls were made beginning around 1:07 a.m. reporting a fire and a shooting.
Fire crews arrived at the scene before police and encountered gunshots, causing them to retreat, said Assistant Chief Michael Mire of the Houston Fire Department.
"As our firefighters came in the crossfire and they retreated, they still focused their attention on possible victims inside the structure. There were two that they were able to pull out," Mire said.
Finner said a seven-year veteran of the Houston police force arrived at the scene after firefighters came under fire. Finner said the officer saw the armed suspect in a prone position in a parking lot across the street from the blaze and fatally shot him.
"Our officer arrived and took action, and for that, I'm very proud of him," Finner said.
The officer, whose name was not immediately released, has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation, he said.
Finner said investigators found a shotgun with a spent shell lying next to the alleged gunman's body. He said it remains under investigation whether the man fired at the officer before he was shot dead.
Finner said two white men, both in their 60s, were fatally shot and perished at the scene. A third gunshot victim he described as a Black male in his 40s was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He said a man in his 40s or 50 was shot in the arm and another survivor was injured running away from the scene.
The landlord of the multi-unit rental complex where the fiery ambush occurred told ABC station KTRK in Houston that the suspect had lived in the complex since 2013, but did not pay rent. The landlord, who asked that his name not be published, confirmed the suspect was evicted and had turned in his keys on Saturday.
Among the victims killed in the episode was the property manager of the rental complex, according to the landlord.