Callers describe victims gunned down inside the restaurant on tapes released Wednesday; the sheriff’s office said those killed included two National Guard members who served overseas.
“In the IHOP! In the IHOP!” one caller said. “Now he’s coming back out with a gun shooting people in the parking lot!”
The attack by lone gunman Eduardo Sencion, aka Eduardo Perez Gonzalez, left four dead and seven injured. Sencion also killed himself.
The dead included three Nevada National Guard members, identified Wednesday as: Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege, 38, of Carson City; Major Heath Kelly, 35, of Reno; and Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31, of Reno.
Brig. Gen. William R. Burks described the three as dedicated service members who were active in their fields.
Kelly was a decorated officer and avid student of military history who was known for his dry sense of humor, Burks said at a news conference.
Kelly was married with two kids, and served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. He was deployed while on active duty with the Army, not as a member of the Nevada National Guard.
Riege was a fitness buff, a father of three and had also been in the Navy. His military occupation was armor crewman, and he served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.
McElhiney was an administrative sergeant who had been with the Guard for 13 years. She served soldiers in the medical, dental and human resources fields.
McElhiney also had a side business making cakes and cupcakes and would always bring goodies when people got a promotion.
Burks said Guardsmen overseas are grieving the service members’ loss, and were being told to maintain focus.
Also killed was Florence Donovan-Gunderson, 67, of South Lake Tahoe.
“This is unquestionably the most devastating attack in Carson City’s history,” Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said at a news conference Wednesday. “Yesterday our town was shocked to the core.”
Just before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sencion stepped onto the Carson City pancake house parking lot from his blue minivan with a yellow “Support Our Troops” sticker on it.
He opened fire, then continued into the restaurant and marched toward a table of uniformed National Guard members before shooting each one, and fatally wounding three of them, authorities said.
On the 911 tapes, callers describe seeing a man wearing a red shirt and black pants. Many are crying as dispatchers frantically try to gather information on where the shooter went.
“Our hearts ache for all the victims of this senseless act of violence,” IHOP Restaurants President Jean Birch wrote on Facebook after coming to town in the aftermath of the breakfast-time massacre. “The people of Carson City have also shown incredible support for the victims and IHOP’s team members.”
Seven people were wounded in the attack. Their names have not been released, but Furlong said Wednesday their injuries range from severe to extremely life-threatening.
Lawmakers, business owners and law enforcement officials in this close-knit, government-driven city of 50,000 struggled to understand what drove Sencion — aka Eduardo Perez Gonzalez — to turn an AK-47 assault rifle on his hometown.
“It’s unprecedented in Carson City history,” said Guy Rocha, retired Nevada state archivist. “People who live in Carson City have come from other places to get away from the large urban madness. ... It finally came to Carson City.
Authorities are investigating whether the military members were targeted. Furlong said Wednesday it’s still unclear whether Sencion was targeting people in the military.
Sencion shot each of the five Nevada National Guard troops sitting together at the back of the restaurant. Another woman was shot and killed.
Family members told investigators that Sencion, 32, was mentally troubled, but he did not have a criminal history. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital hours after the mass shooting.
“The sheriff may never know the motive,” Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen said.
The shooting happened roughly two miles from the state Capitol in Carson City.
Sencion stepped out of the minivan and immediately shot a woman near a motorcycle before charging into the chain restaurant. Witnesses said he had unloaded a magazine when he was still less than 12 feet from his car.
Officials were analyzing the assault rifle to determine whether it is automatic or semi-automatic. Sencion left two more guns in the van — another rifle and a pistol, authorities said. Furlong said law enforcement agencies are investigating how Sencion got the guns.
The violent outburst rattled Nevada’s capital city after the long Labor Day weekend when many officials, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, had left town. Carson City is also a jumping off point 30 miles south of Reno for travelers headed to Lake Tahoe or back to California across the Sierra.
Nevada officials initially feared the worst as news of the shooting spread. The state Capitol and Supreme Court buildings were briefly closed and extra security were sent to guard state and military buildings in northern Nevada to prevent further violence. The IHOP is several miles from the Guard’s state headquarters complex.
Sencion was born in Mexico and had a valid U.S. passport. He worked at a family business in South Lake Tahoe and had no known affiliations with anyone inside the restaurant, Furlong said. He was not in the military.
Sencion filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009, listing more than $42,000 in outstanding debts for a car, several credit cards and some medical expenses. The case was discharged four months later.
A lawyer representing some of Sencion’s family members called the shooting “an aberration of his character.”