Bay City shooting leaves four kids dead; mom in critical condition

December 5, 2011 8:04:40 AM PST
Four children are dead and their mother was wounded after police say a man opened fire on his wife and kids in Bay City Wednesday before turning the gun on himself.

The shooting happened around 3:15pm Wednesday at a home in the 2700 block of 10th Street. Two of the children -- both boys, ages 3 and 5 -- died later that evening. The other two children -- ages 2 and 4 -- died Thursday afternoon after being put on life support at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. Their mother is still listed in critical condition.

Neighbors say the father, identified as Jose Avila, 24, had recently lost his job. He was seen cursing and waving a handgun in the front yard of his family's home.

"Investigators were able to determine there was a confrontation between the wife and the husband yesterday that led to the shooting," said Bay City police spokesperson Andrew Lewis during a Thursday morning press conference. "She was able to get outside the residence. He went outside and said he was going to get the kids and that's when he went outside and started shooting."

Detectives say it appears Avila shot his wife three times, injuring her. Then he opened fire on their young children who were playing in the front yard.

Neighbors say after the shooting his wife and kids, he turned the gun on himself. One neighbor with whom we spoke describes Wednesday's scene.

"Waving a gun, telling people to go on by and I guess after that, he just turned around and shot himself because he was right behind his vehicle when I got home," said neighbor Lisa Perez. "To do something like this, it's no good, shooting yourself and your family."

Bay City police tell us this is not the first time law enforcement has been involved with the family. Back on November 22, they took a report that Avila assaulted his wife. She was taken to a women's crisis center. Investigators tried to get her to file charges against him, but she refused to do so.

Maria Sierra, a friend of the wife, tells Eyewitness News everybody knew about their marital problems and they tried to support her because she didn't have any family. They say the wife was planning to move out with the children before the tragic shooting.

The shooting has rattled the small town of Bay City. Many who didn't know the family passed by the house. Some even erected makeshift memorials in honor of the mother and her children.

"What would make anybody just snap like that? These are innocent children," neighbor Stefanie Charlston said.

The mother was transported to a hospital, where she underwent surgery and was taken to Memorial Hermann Thursday morning. The children were transported via LifeFlight from Matagorda Regional Hospital to Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital Wednesday night.

The Bay City School District issued an alert as investigators responded to that shooting. The district sent out phone calls to parents informing them of the situation near Bay City Junior High and Cherry Elementary School. Bay City ISD made it clear that at no time were any students on campuses in danger.

Meanwhile, a local priest says the community is organizing a candlelight vigil for the family involved in this tragedy. The mother's family is in Utah and police say they are making arrangements to get the family to Texas.

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