Gunfire leaves two dead, including a child, in Texas

Police in Texas are investigating a string of incidents involving people firing guns on New Year’s Eve — one of which police say led to the death of a child.

The Arlington Police Department on Friday detailed multiple incidents of New Year’s Eve gunfire on its Facebook page. Two of the incidents ended in fatalities, while a third ended in an exchange of gunfire between suspects and an officer who responded alongside two security guards.

Police have arrested suspects in those three cases, though they’re still hunting for a suspect in a fourth case posted late Friday.

“I don’t ever recall a New Year’s Eve like this,” Arlington police Lt. Christopher Cook told WFAA-TV.

The shootings illustrate a danger that police departments nationwide wanted to avoid. Police in Richmond, Virginia, warned against celebratory gunfire after the death of a 28-year-old woman at the start of 2020. Police in Alabama offered a cash reward for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of people who fired guns into the air.

Even the Arlington Police Department posted a warning on Dec. 31, saying celebratory gunfire is, “illegal and you can be charged with a crime. It can also seriously hurt somebody.”

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The first incident in Arlington happened shortly after midnight. Police were called to an apartment after someone heard a gunshot, according to an arrest warrant affidavit provided to USA TODAY. Police didn’t find anyone inside the apartment, but found blood.

Eventually, a car that matched the description of one that left the area after the shooting returned to the scene, and police questioned the two people inside the car.

One the of two, 21-year-old Zantyler Hooks, admitted to shooting the 4-year-old victim, identified by police as Messiah Taplin, according to the report. Hooks told police he was watching rap videos with Messiah and he was mimicking the video while holding the gun, which he thought was unloaded, according to the affidavit.

The gun went off and the child was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Hooks was arrested on a manslaughter charge.

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The second incident also happened shortly after midnight on New Year’s. Police were called to a residence and found a woman on the back patio with a gun next to her, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Detectives spoke with relatives of the woman, identified as Blanca Guerra, who said they received phone calls from Mario Alanis, 34.

In the phone calls, he told the relatives he accidentally shot Guerra, according to the affidavit.

Alanis told another person, whose name is redacted in the affidavit provided to USA TODAY, he tried to fire his gun into the air after midnight. He threw the gun on the ground when it didn’t fire, then it when off when he attempted to reload it, striking Guerra, according to the affidavit.

Alanis was also arrested on a manslaughter charge.

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“You will always run to some fireworks calls,” Cook told WFAA-TV. “You’ll run to some shots-fired calls. But typically, what we worry about is intoxication manslaughter cases and fatality crashes. We’ve never, to my knowledge, dealt with this many shootings and certainly, (ones) of this magnitude, in such a short amount of time.”

Gunshots also rang out at an apartment complex where an Arlington police officer and two security guards were looking at security footage for an “unrelated case,” the police department said in a press release.

“As the officer and security guards went to investigate the shots, it is believed a suspect fired multiple rounds in the direction of the officer and security guards,” police said in a statement.

One of the security guards sustained a “minor injury,” according to police. The guards and the officer all returned fire, but “it is not believed that any rounds from the security guards or the officers struck any persons,” police said.

The suspects, who police believe were at the apartment complex “to fire celebratory gunshots into the air for New Year’s Eve,” left the scene in a white car, which was later located with three men inside, according to a press release. The three men — Felix Barrientos, 31; Juan Magallanes, 28; David Garcia, 24 — were all arrested on various charges.

Police are still looking for a fourth suspect, as well as the rifle used in the incident.

No one was injured in a final incident posted late Friday. A bullet from what police are calling “presumed ‘celebratory gunfire'” struck the window of a 6-year-old’s room while the child slept.

“Thankfully the child was not injured!” the Arlington Police Department posted on Facebook.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas police investigating New Year’s Eve gunfire that left child dead