Utah investigators and residents of a middle-class Salt Lake City suburb were trying Wednesday to understand what led a man to open fire on a woman and children inside a car — leaving the woman and one of her sons dead, another son in critical condition and a girl injured.
The suspect was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene in a quiet neighborhood of the city of Sandy. He was in a relationship with the dead woman but was not the father of her sons, authorities said.
The victims shot Tuesday afternoon were inside a car driven by another woman. Authorities said she had picked up the female victim and her two sons to give them a ride “out of the area” moments before the attack as they walked alongside a road in the city of Sandy.
It was unclear what prompted the driver, who had her daughter riding with her, to pick up the woman and the two boys. Authorities did not say why the woman and her sons needed to get away.
The woman who died and her sons had just left the boys’ elementary school after the end of school when the events unfolded, said police Sgt. Jason Nielsen.
Moments after the driver picked them up, police said, the suspect used his car to repeatedly ram the woman’s vehicle. Then he got out and opened fire before shooting himself.
The woman who was driving the car was not injured. Her daughter was shot and remained hospitalized Wednesday in stable condition, authorities said.
The other son of the woman who had been walking on the road was in critical but stable condition, authorities said.
The suspect was identified as Jeremy Patterson, 32. He had been in a relationship with the woman who was killed, 39-year-old Memorez Rackley, police said in a statement that did not disclose details about a possible motive.
Rackley was married to another man but Nielsen did not provide more details. Authorities also did not identify the female driver or her daughter.
The 6-year-old victim was a kindergartner at Brookwood Elementary School, about six blocks away from the crime scene, said school district spokesman Jeff Haney.
The injured boy is a 5th grader and the injured girl is also a student of the school but Haney could not immediately provide more information about her.
Counselors were at the school Wednesday to help students and parents deal with the aftermath of the shooting, a day after parents who heard news of it rushed to the school to get their children.
Wednesday was also the elementary school’s last day before summer vacation. Teachers were trying to maintain end-of-school traditions, Haney said.
The shooting occurred in the quiet neighborhood with winding roads and homes nestled near mountains about 20 miles southeast (32 kilometers) of Salt Lake City.
Colby Corbett was in his backyard waiting for his 8-year-old son to walk home from school when he heard 20 to 30 gunshots within a few seconds.
“I thought it was like a gun battle.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst