Two women and a male shooting suspect were dead Thursday morning after shots were fired on West Virginia Avenue, Temple Police Cpl. Shawana Neely said.
Late Thursday, Temple Police Department’s criminal investigations unit identified those involved in the shooting as Shelly Splittgerber, 36; Sherry Gray, 64; and Matthew Splittgerber, 36.
Shelly’s 4-year-old son also was shot at the 110 West Virginia Ave. address, but was alive when transported to the hospital.
The extent of the child’s injuries wasn’t known, but he did show signs of life, a 2:30 p.m. news release from Neely said.
The child underwent surgery Thursday. His condition afterward was unknown, Bell County Justice of the Peace David Barfield said.
What appeared to be a young child’s PJ Masks backpack and small blue jacket were seen at the end of the driveway, and a short distance away was a pair of brown shoes. Police evidence markers were in the yard, the street and near a silver Chevy Silverado pickup in the driveway. In the black-gloved hand of one investigator crouched down outside was a shell casing.
Matthew, believed to be the shooter, was transported by ambulance to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple. He was pronounced dead at 9:13 a.m. by Barfield.
Shelly, found outside the house along with her son, and Gray were pronounced dead at 6:08 a.m., Barfield said.
Barfield sent the three bodies for autopsies at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
Temple Police officers responded at 6:09 a.m. to the report of a shooting disturbance at a residence, Neely said.
Gunshots were heard in the area just after 6 a.m., and officers responding to the location found two victims in the front yard. One woman already was dead. EMS arrived to take the boy to the hospital but, as they began loading him, a series of shots were fired from the front part of the house.
Officers moved to safety and started searching the area around the house, Neely said. The Temple Police armored vehicle was brought to the scene, and residents from surrounding homes were evacuated.
Negotiators arrived at the scene and tried to contact and talk to the man, who barricaded himself inside the residence, but he refused to respond, Neely said.
In a few quiet moments, someone could be heard talking from a megaphone.
The SWAT team prepared to enter the residence. The officers heard several gunshots and then one final shot. Once inside, Matthew and Gray were found, already dead from gunshot wounds, Neely said. Matthew died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Gray already has succumbed to her injuries from an apparent gunshot wound.
Before officers entered, it was unknown whether anyone else except Matthew was in the house.
One ambulance left the area without any lights or siren activated.
Neely didn’t know how many shots were fired by the suspect.
The area was expected to be closed for several hours as police continued their investigation into what happened, Neely said.
Multiple law enforcement officers were seen at the location near Miller Park, Lamar Middle School and Hillcrest Cemetery. In addition to Temple Police, officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI and Bell County Sheriff’s Department were at the scene.
Temple Mayor Tim Davis commented on the shootings during Thursday’s City Council meeting.
“We don’t know all the details. What we do know is three are dead, and there is a young boy who has been injured severely,” Davis said.
He called what transpired a tragedy before leading a moment of silence.
“During this season, we’re all looking forward to a joyous time with our families. As we know, for every family, this time of year is not always necessarily joyous,” Davis said. “I think it’s appropriate that we observe a moment of silence, both for the victims and for our first responders — the people who were coming to work for a regular day and ended up having to work that horrific scene.”
People who live in the area heard gunshots and sirens, according to online posts.
Stacy Marie Johnson, who said the shooting was just around the corner from her home, said, “It was scary. I heard the shots fired at 6 a.m.” Johnson said she called 911.
Holly Romain-Hobbs said on Facebook the shooting happened two streets over from her home.
“Heard the gunshots and sirens when it occurred,” Romain-Hobbs said.
West Virginia Avenue, a short street, was blocked off, as was the entire area. Lamar Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School were placed on lockdowns during the incident.
Temple Independent School District posted at 7:10 a.m. a message about the reported shooting near the two schools and said both schools were on lockdown. Instructions said all students would be received “under increased security.”
TISD contacted the parents of Jefferson and Lamar students through the Skylert communication system, which includes phone, email and text messaging, district spokesman Christian Hernandez said.
After police instructed Temple ISD officials to lift the lockdown, parents received another notification informing them of this update.
Temple schools Superintendent Bobby Ott said they allowed students and parents to come into the buildings. Some area residents were routed by police to a school, where they were kept separate from the students, Ott said.
Students coming to Lamar were asked to enter through the southeast side, Ott said. Buses picked up students and all were dropped off safely.
Lamar Middle School Principal Billy Madden said the school was on a hard/soft lockdown. Students were fed breakfast, but weren’t allowed to leave their classrooms. About 550 students attend the middle school, Madden said.
Parents dropped off children at the intersection of First Street and Park Avenue after they were stopped by school officials. The students were allowed to walk to the school, but only one entrance at the south end of the school was opened for the students.
Lamar students were scheduled to be released early, but an adjusted pickup scheduled replaced the one earlier planned because of the road closures in the area, said.
Telegram staff writers Jerry Prickett, Cody Weems and Mariel Williams contributed to this story