HOUSTON (AP) — Robin Ahrens was getting ready to go to work at a doughnut shop in the middle of the night when he heard what sounded like fireworks coming from the back parking lot of his apartment house in southwest Houston.
Ahrens, 53, walked down a hall to investigate around 1 a.m. Sunday. He looked out a window and saw one of his neighbors at the complex standing behind a car and firing a shotgun at other neighbors who were fleeing a fire that police say the gunman had started to lure them out of their rooms.
Minutes later, Michael James, who had worked late at a restaurant, came home to the apartment house and found his room ablaze. After trying to call 911, James, 62, began walking away when he was shot in the back. The gunman ended up shooting five neighbors, killing three of them.
Bleeding, James fled to the front of the apartment house, where he found Houston police. Officers found the gunman across the street in the parking lot of a medical supply store, where he was fatally shot.
“I don’t know what happened to him. He just went on a rampage,” James said Monday, as he stood in front his burned room, still wearing the green medical scrub shirt he had been given while briefly hospitalized a day earlier.
The apartment house’s owner, who identified the gunman as Roy Cravin, along with neighbors and police said the shooting might have been set off by the man’s Saturday eviction, which had been preceded by his financial difficulties during the pandemic and a recent colon cancer diagnosis.
Authorities on Monday had not released the name of the shooter or the three people who were killed.
The deadly shooting in Houston was one of several in the U.S. this past weekend, including in Detroit and Portland, Oregon, in which people were confronted by random gun violence while at home or at a store or walking their dog.
Tony Mercurio, the owner of the Houston apartment house, said Cravin had been a tenant for nine years and he considered him a friend. But Mercurio said he made the difficult decision to evict Cravin after he had not paid rent in a year.
Mercurio said there seemed to be no hard feelings when he went to Cravin’s room at around 8 a.m. Saturday and got his keys.
Cravin had worked as a bouncer at a club but lost his job when the business was shut down during the pandemic, Mercurio said.
“Something happened in his head that I’m not sure what it was,” Mercurio said.
Ahrens said Cravin first fatally shot the apartment house’s manager, who live onsite. He also wounded the man’s dog, a German shepherd named Duke. The dog, who had an injured foot, ran away but was later found. Cravin then fatally shot two others, police said. Two other men, including James, were shot, and wounded and another had minor injuries.
“Those were good people that got killed,” Mercurio said of his residents and his manager, who had worked for him since 1989.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, the gunman opened fire on them and they were forced to take cover until police fatally shot him, said Houston Police Chief Troy Finner. No firefighters or officers were wounded.
Mercurio said the fire destroyed eight of the 16 units but he planned to rebuild the apartment house, which offers residents shared bathrooms and kitchens. Displaced residents would be offered vacant rooms at other apartment houses owned by Mercurio.
Ahrens said he doesn’t want to move because he wouldn’t be able to pay for transportation as he doesn’t have a car and usually walks to work. James said he is focused on trying to rebuild after losing everything in the fire. On Monday, he wore gray pants that someone had given him as all his clothes were burned.
The American Red Cross had given each of the apartment house’s residents a $500 gift card to help them replace what they lost.
“Every little bit helps,” Ahrens said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70