At a birthday party in Colorado Springs, a mass shooting kills seven people, including the gunman.
Six members of an extended family were killed Sunday at a birthday party in a mobile home in Colorado Springs, police said, in what appears to be the state’s fourth deadliest mass shooting and tied for the city’s deadliest mass murder.
The murders occurred shortly after midnight Sunday at the Canterbury Mobile Home Park on Preakness Way off Powers Boulevard, on the city’s east side near the airport. Officers responding to a confirmed shooting found six deceased adults and a man with severe injuries who died later at a hospital, Colorado Springs police said in a news release Sunday.
The perpetrator, a male victim’s boyfriend, drove to the trailer where a birthday party with friends, relatives, and children was being held. Within, he started shooting partygoers before killing himself, police said, adding that the children were “now in the care of relatives.”
This was Colorado’s worst mass shooting since a gunman killed ten people March 22 at a Boulder supermarket. According to Colorado Springs Police Department historian Dwight Haverkorn, the killings tend to be the worst gun-slayings in the city’s history and are tied for the deadliest mass murder.
Nubia Marquez, 28, and her brother Melvin Perez, who would have turned 31 this week, as well as their mother Joana Cruz, who would have turned 54 this week, were among those honored at the celebration, Nubia Marquez said on Sunday.
“My mother always liked to celebrate them together,” the woman said, adding that she attended the party with her husband, Freddy Marquez.
Their fates may have been different had the pair not left around 10 p.m. “Everyone was calm” as they left Joana Cruz’s house, Freddy Marquez said. “Everyone was fine.”
Melvin Perez and Joana Cruz were both assassinated. Nubia Marquez’s other brother, Jose Guttierez, 21, was also among the deceased, as was Melvin Perez’s wife, Mayra Perez, 32, and Mayra Perez’s sister Sandra Ibarra and brother Jose Ibarra, the couple said.
Freddy Marquez named the alleged shooter as Sandra Ibarra’s boyfriend, describing him as “quiet” and “serious” and noting that he was always armed. He had met the suspected gunman only once and described him as “unusual.” The couple knew the guy only as “Junior.”
Joana Cruz, Freddy Marquez’s mother-in-law, was characterized as “loving” and “hardworking” by Freddy Marquez.
“She was perpetually amused,” he recalled of the mother of four.
Her sons, he said, were “much like their mother.” “They were all outstanding individuals.”
For many hours Freddy and Nubia Marquez huddled with relatives outside police tape on Sunday, about 200 feet from the scene of their loved ones’ deaths. Freddy Marquez encircled his wife’s neck and she leaned her head on his chest, obstructing her view of crime scene technicians outside her mother’s house.
A woman who lives nearby in the mobile home park said she awoke to the sound of gunshots and eventually heard crying outside. Two small children were placed in the back seat of a patrol vehicle.
“And on Mother’s Day,” the woman, who requested anonymity, added.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis described the mass murder as a “heinous act of violence” that occurred while “all of us are spending the day honoring the women in our lives who have shaped us into the people we are today.”
“Families ripped apart, even on the eve of a birthday party,” he said.
Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs called the shooting a “senseless act of abuse” and pleaded with the public for patience while the police department conducts an investigation.
“Today, we are grieving the loss of lives and praying solemnly for those who have been injured and those who have lost family members,” Suthers said in a statement Sunday. “We also consider the emergency responders who responded to a horrible scene and pray for them today.”
Chief Vince Niski of the Colorado Springs Police Department said that officers and investigators who replied “are all left extremely shaken.”
“This is something you hope never occurs in your own neighborhood, in the location you call home,” he said.
“My pledge to this group and to the families who have suffered a loss today is that this department will do everything possible to obtain the answers you deserve and to provide you with unwavering support.”
The investigation is being conducted by the department’s Violent Crimes Unit, police said. As of Sunday night, the motive remained unknown.
Those with details about the killings and have not spoken with investigators is asked to contact the Colorado Springs Police Department at (719) 444-7000 or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (719) 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477. In recent years, Colorado Springs has been in mourning. In 2015, a man shot three people at random in Colorado Springs before dying in a shootout with police on Halloween. Less than a month later, in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the area, a man killed three people, including a police officer, and wounded nine others.
In 2007, a man opened fire on the Arvada Youth With a Mission Center, killing two people and injuring two others before fleeing. Later that day, he carried out a similar assault on Colorado Springs’ New Life Church, killing two and injuring three before shooting himself.
Until Sunday, the deadliest gun slaying in Colorado Springs appears to have happened on May 17, 1986, when five people were shot to death during two business robberies, according to Haverkorn. The next day, when approached by police, the accused killer committed suicide.
Sunday’s incident seems to tie with a mass murder of six neighbors from two houses on Sept. 20, 1911 — all of whom were killed with axes. The assassin was never apprehended.
Statewide, the deadliest attack in Colorado remains the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two armed teenagers went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and one teacher and injuring more than 20 others. The gunmen then committed suicide.
In 2012, the state’s second-deadliest shooting happened at an Aurora movie theater, when an armed gunman opened fire during a midnight screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 and injuring 70.
With ten fatalities, including a police officer, the March 22 attack at a south Boulder King Soopers remains the state’s third deadliest mass shooting. The defendant is currently awaiting trial.
Friday’s birthday party massacre is the state’s fourth deadliest mass shooting, with six people killed, including the suspected shooter, who police say committed suicide.
Colorado was tied with Washington for the fourth-highest number of mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and April 2021, according to Statista.com. California led the way with 21, Florida came in second with 12, and Texas came in third with 11.
Colorado is in the center of the pack in terms of weapon mortality. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it ranked 19th in the nation in 2019 with 14.2 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 residents.
According to a 2021 report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the state ranked 33rd in the nation for firearm homicides per 100,000 people in 2018, with 2.31, less than half the national average of 4.12, citing data from the global burden of diseases study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.