Three people were shot to death and one was critically wounded at a known drug house in suburban Salt Lake City, causing temporary lockdowns at several area schools as police looked for two men who may have been involved.
Police left three bodies inside the house for much of Tuesday as they searched Midvale for ex-convict David Fresques, 25, who left his car at a nearby Motel 6.
"He is a suspect at large, and we want to get him caught," Unified Police Department Lt. Justin Hoyal said Tuesday afternoon.
Fresques has a lengthy criminal record and was paroled in November on a robbery conviction, court records show. His involvement or motive in the shooting was unknown.
Detectives, meanwhile, were interviewing two adults and a child left unharmed at the house during the shooting, Hoyal said.
The shooting was reported around 8 a.m. at a house that backs up to a sound barrier for Interstate 15, about a dozen miles south of Salt Lake City.
Hoyal said a search warrant had been served at the residence in recent weeks for drug activity. "It was a known narcotics house," he said.
Several elementary schools were locked down to keep children safe as dozens of officers began a search for Fresques, who police believe left the home after the shooting. The school lockdowns were later lifted, but police kept the schools under guard for much of the day.
At first, police called Fresques a "person of interest" in the case. But by late Tuesday Hoyal left no doubt that he was being considered a suspect, together with a second man who has yet to be identified.
Investigators and a medical examiner were preparing to enter the house late Tuesday to recover the bodies and evidence.
The fourth shooting victim, a woman, was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Her condition improved later Tuesday to serious, Hoyal said.
Neighbors said they thought the house had been left vacant after police conducted the drug raid weeks ago.
"We heard a big boom at 4 o'clock in the morning," said Guy Foote, 50, who lives nearby. "They blew the door hinges off with flash grenades. The police were telling us to get back inside our houses."
He and other residents were shocked to learn a triple homicide had occurred in their tidy neighborhood of small houses.
"It's crazy," Foote said. "It blows my mind. Scary. I walk my dogs on this street all the time."
Court records show the owner of the house was trying to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent, but the landlord's daughter told The Associated Press the shooting had nothing to do with the dispute in court.
Jose Velazquez filed eviction proceedings Jan. 29 against Jose Fernando Garcia and Esther Arredondo, who countersued a week later, claiming Velazquez failed to credit the couple for making repairs to the $116,000 house.
Several other people appeared to be staying at or frequently visiting the house, said Stephanie Velazquez, the owner's daughter. She didn't know if the tenants were victims of the shooting.