(AP) — Two suspects have been charged in connection with a shooting at a house party in suburban Houston that left two teenagers dead and injured 19 others, authorities announced Monday.
Investigators said they still believe the deadly shooting started as a result of celebratory gunfire, despite court documents that seem to indicate the incident started when the suspects shot at two individuals before then firing into the crowd.
Willie Young, 21, and Randy Stewart, 18, were arrested Monday morning, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Young is charged with deadly conduct, while Stewart is charged with aggravated assault. Bail for each suspect was set at $250,000. Court records did not indicate whether Young or Stewart has an attorney.
The victim killed at the scene has been identified as 17-year-old Qu’eric Richardson. The 16-year-old girl who died at a hospital was identified as Arielle Shepherd.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia had previously said Saturday’s shooting in Cypress, an unincorporated area about 25 miles northwest of Houston, began when someone fired a pistol in the air in celebration. In the ensuing confusion, someone else began firing into the crowd, causing people to flee into the narrow street, Garcia said. Officials said more than 100 people were at the party, which was promoted openly on several social media sites.
According to probable cause affidavits for Young and Stewart, two of the people at the party say the suspects initially began firing at them.
Dominic Adams said that after Stewart entered the home, Stewart “pulled out a handgun, pointed it at him and discharged the weapon.”
Adams “was struck in the arm. (Adams) stated that the defendant began randomly shooting into the crowd,” according to Stewart’s probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit related to Young presented a similar scenario. Jamario Wilson, another partygoer, told investigators that he saw Young in the home’s living room when Young pulled out a handgun and began firing in his direction. Wilson said that Young also began “randomly shooting” into the crowd. It didn’t appear that Wilson was injured.
Both Adams and Wilson said they knew the suspects “from the neighborhood.”
Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Alan Bernstein said investigators do not believe that people were hunted down or singled out in the house. He said evidence, including bullet holes on the ceiling, supports the belief that everything began with the celebratory gunfire.
“Someone in a crowd of people that is randomly being fired upon is probably going to see a weapon pointed at them randomly. … That does not mean they believe they were singled out and it doesn’t mean we believe the shooter singled them out,” he said.
Young and Stewart might face additional charges and additional suspects might be sought, Bernstein said.
In September, Stewart pleaded guilty to making a terroristic threat – a misdemeanor – after being part of a group that in December assaulted and then threatened to kill a student at Cypress Woods High School. Stewart was sentenced to five days in jail. Last month, Stewart was charged with check forgery. Young was arrested earlier this year for evading arrest but the charge was later dropped.
Monday’s arrests came on the same day that school officials said security will be boosted and grief counselors provided for students at the school where both slain teens were enrolled.
In a statement, Katy school district Superintendent Alton Frailey said Richardson was a junior and Shepherd was a sophomore at Morton Ranch High School.
“Our sympathies go out to the families of these students whose lives were cut short by this tragedy,” Frailey said.
Katy school district spokesman Steve Stanford said some students at the school were among the more than 100 who attended the party in nearby Cypress. He said school district police will increase patrols so that officers are more visible this week.
“It’s not because of any threat,” Stanford said. “It’s more to reassure students.”