A father fatally shot his three daughters and a chaperone during a supervised visitation at a California church before killing himself, authorities said.
The 39-year-old, who was not immediately identified, began shooting inside The Church sanctuary in Sacramento during a visit shortly before 5 p.m. Monday.
The man, who was estranged from the mother of his daughters, shot dead the young girls – aged 9, 10 and 13 – and a male chaperone, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. The deranged shooter used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the attack, law enforcement sources told NBC News.
“[It’s] obviously [beyond] anyone’s rational understanding,” Sheriff Scott Jones told reporters at a Monday night news conference. “You just don’t know what people are capable of.”
It is unclear whether the man and his children were members of the church or had used the sanctuary as a neutral meeting place. A spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office told the Los Angeles Times that the visit was likely a court-ordered visit.
The mother of three girls, who had a restraining order against the shooter, was not in Sacramento during the shooting but was notified of the death by a law enforcement chaplain, Sheriff Jones said.
“The mom — I don’t know how you deal with that,” Jones said.
Cops responded to the horrific scene after a church worker heard gunshots and called 911 after fleeing the building, authorities said.
“I could see it having an effect on some of them,” said spokesman Sgt. Rodney Grassmann spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the cops who responded. “You can’t walk into a scene like that and not be affected.”
The five victims, who were pronounced dead at the scene, were not immediately identified. A county spokeswoman told the Post she had no additional information to provide immediately as of early Tuesday.
The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California denounced the “heinous crime” in a statement Monday, saying the church was a place of refuge for parishioners.
“I am filled with grief over this tragedy, compassion for the family left behind and frustration over the senseless violence involving guns,” Bishop Megan Traquair said. “God’s faithfulness and love are greater than our greatest sorrow, and he weeps with us.”
The murders are being investigated as an incident of domestic violence, sheriff’s officials said. The shooter had no criminal history in Sacramento, a law enforcement source told the Sacramento Bee.
A woman who lives near the church said she was shocked to learn of the killings.
“That’s not the answer,” Sandi Davis, who heard five or six gunshots as she walked her dog, told the newspaper. “This guy killed his children. It hurts so much. The children are innocent, they had no chance of living.
California Governor Gavin Newsom also denounced the shooting as his office coordinated with local law enforcement officials.
“Another senseless act of gun violence in America – this time in our backyard”, Newsom tweeted Monday. “Absolutely devastating. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and their communities. »
With post wires
New York Post