By Jamie Stengle, Associated Press
A gunman opened fire at an off-campus Texas A&M University-Commerce party, leaving two people dead and 14 injured before he escaped in the ensuing chaos, a sheriff said Sunday.
Authorities were working under the theory that the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people in Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of the Commerce campus and that others were just randomly shot, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said.
The shooting took place around midnight Saturday at what Meeks described as Halloween and homecoming party for Texas A&M University-Commerce. Meeks described “complete chaos” after the shots rang out, with hundreds of people fleeing, including the gunman. The injured included four people who did not have gunshot wounds but who were hurt in the melee, he said.
Authorities believe there was one male shooter who entered the venue through the back door and began firing with a handgun, Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect and did not yet know who he was or have a description of him.
Sheriff’s deputies were questioning a partygoer in front of the building after having been called there for complaints of parking on the roadway blocking traffic when they heard gunshots from the back of the building, Meeks said.
The two people killed were both males, Meeks said, but he did not know if they were A&M-Commerce students. He said he believed four or five students may have been among those injured and estimated that most of the people at the party were in their late teens and early 20s. Some of the partygoers were wearing costumes, he said.
The party was not a school-sanctioned event, according to the school and sheriff’s officials.
Word of the shooting spread online overnight, with many sharing on social media graphic video purported to show seriously wounded victims lying on the ground as crying and screaming could be heard in the background.
“I just briefly saw one that was a very graphic video,” Meeks said. “I don’t know that’s going to help anything at all.”
Meeks said the party was being held at a facility called The Party Venue in Greenville and that the owner was cooperating with authorities. He said he was not aware of any surveillance video in the area.
Meeks praised the patrol sergeant and deputy who were on the scene at the time of the shooting, saying that the sergeant quickly assessed that one of gunshot victims had life-threatening injuries and transported that person to a hospital, while the deputy triaged others until paramedics arrived.
According to its website, Texas A&M University-Commerce is the second-largest university in the Texas A&M University System. The school was founded in 1889 and was known by several names, including East Texas State University, prior to joining the Texas A&M system in 1996. The university has around 6,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 graduate students.