Nebraska authorities investigating if race played a role in shooting that wounded 4 children and 3 adults, police chief says

Nebraska authorities are investigating the motive behind a Friday shooting of four children and three adults at a Nebraska home allegedly by a 74-year-old neighbor – including whether there was a “racial component” to the shooting – the Crete Police Chief said in a news conference.

The suspect, who authorities identified as Billy Booth of Crete, was found dead Friday evening from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a nearby home, authorities said.

“At approximately 4:33 p.m. Friday, Saline County 911 received multiple reports of an active shooter incident occurring in the 1200 block of Crestline Drive in Crete,” a Saturday news release from Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) read.

When approaching, officers said they could “hear gunfire still occurring.”

“They located several victims inside a home on Crestline Drive and identified that the gunfire was coming from a house across the street,” the release read. The statement also notes “there were approximately 15 people at the victims’ residence at the time of the shooting.”

“Officers and the first EMTs on scene evacuated the victims to safety so they could be transported for treatment,” the release read. “In total, there were seven gunshot victims.”

Four children were injured in the shooting, ranging from ages 3 to 10, and three adults were also injured, ranging from ages 22 to 43, NSP said.

The NSP told CNN Tuesday that the victims were all Guatemalan and that they have all been released from area hospitals.

A SWAT team was activated, and “at approximately 6:40 pm… made entry into the home where the gunfire had originated, 1810 Parkland Street, and located the occupant deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The SWAT team located a shotgun near the suspect,” according to NSP.

In a Saturday news conference, Colonel John A. Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said that authorities do not believe there was “any verbal contact between the suspect and any of the victims in the moments that led up to the shooting.”

However, there had been a “prior history between the suspect” and some of the victims’ families, he noted.

Crete Police Chief Gary Young Jr. said at the news conference authorities had previous contact with the suspect as they had responded to “several complaints since 2021” that he made.

“Most of them dealt with driving behavior, not necessarily associated with the victims’ house, but cars driving too fast in the neighborhood, improper parking, nuisance properties, quality of life type issues,” Young Jr. said, adding that the suspect complained “generally about the neighborhood.”

Earlier this year, there was a “single report from the victims that the suspect had flipped them off, told them ‘to go home’ or ‘back to where they came from,’ and ‘speak English.’”

Young Jr. said at the time the responding officer interviewed the family and the suspect, and the officer was “willing to take it for prosecution—the family declined.”

Based on interviews with the family Friday, Young Jr. said, “My understanding is that additional contacts were made between the suspect and the family, and the family told them that they would contact the police and that resolved the situation, so we had no further contact.”

When asked if authorities believe there is a “racial component” to the prior complaints Young Jr. said “there could be. We don’t know. Certainly, the context of ‘go home’ and ‘speak English’ lends itself to that.”

Authorities have yet to determine if the shooting is a hate crime, the NSP said in a statement Tuesday.

“All of the injuries are consistent with shotgun blast injuries and, as you know, a shotgun disperses many pellets when a shotgun is discharged, which that probably accounts for the large number of people who were struck,” Bolduc said at the news conference.

“That lends itself to the fact that we’re dealing with injuries and not necessarily fatalities … but at this point we believe that all will survive.”

CNN’s Jillian Sykes contributed to this report.

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