WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: A husband and wife with three of their young children have died in what police believe was a murder-suicide sparked by a bitter divorce.
Police Lieutenant Matt Dobbs told reporters officers arrived at the family’s San Diego home shortly before 7am (local time) on Saturday following an emergency call from the residence in which a dispatcher heard someone being asked to leave.
As they travelled there another call came from a neighbour saying they heard a sound coming from the home that sounded like a nail gun.
Officers looked through a window and saw a small boy inside covered in blood.
They broke into the house and found a 29-year-old woman, her 31-year-old husband and their 3-year-old son dead.
Three other boys – believed to be ages 5, 9, and 11 – were badly wounded.
Two were pronounced dead at a hospital. The third was reported to be in very critical condition, Dobbs told an afternoon news conference.
Police originally gave the surviving boy’s age as 11, but said later they could not be sure if that was correct.
They sought to reassure the community they were not looking for a suspect.
“It appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence,” Lt Dobbs said, adding the woman had recently obtained a restraining order against her husband and the couple had been living apart for some time.
“He used a handgun to shoot his family before [taking his own life],” the lieutenant said.
Police Chief David Nisleit said officers had visited the home on November 1 to resolve a property dispute between the couple and they advised the woman at that time on how to obtain a restraining order.
“Best we know they were going through some type of divorce process,” he said.
Neighbours told the San Diego Union-Tribune they often saw the boys outside playing with their dog or riding their bicycles.
“They were just living the kids’ life on the outside, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors,” neighbour Gabriel Durazo said.
Lt Dobbs said the crime scene was so gruesome it traumatised even the arriving officers who carried the children out of the house in a desperate effort to save them.
He said counselling will be made available for any officers who need it.
“My heart goes out to the family and their friends,” Chief Nisleit said.
“As a husband and a father this incident is very difficult for me to even think about.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, find help by calling 1800 RESPECT.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.