A man who opened fire at a married couple, killing one of them and wounding the other before fatally shooting himself inside a popular Houston seafood restaurant, had a history of mental illness and did not know the people he shot, police said.
The couple was finishing dinner in the bar of the Downtown Aquarium Restaurant shortly after 8 p.m. when the man approached them, pulled out a gun and “immediately started firing rounds” at them, Houston police Executive Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard said.
According to witnesses and security video from the restaurant, the man had been sitting at the other end of the bar before the shooting, police said. The 28-year-old husband died at the scene while his 24-year-old wife was shot at least once in the leg.
Police said Friday that the woman told investigators she and her husband did not know the man who shot them. Slinkard said it appeared the suspect had very little or even no interaction with the couple before the shooting occurred.
“This was a tragic, isolated incident, with no relationship between the victims and the suspect,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement.
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Police identified the husband as Gabriel Moriones Vargas. The suspected shooter was identified as 39-year-old Danny Cazares. The name of Vargas’ wife was not immediately released by authorities. She remained hospitalized in stable condition, Finner said. No other injuries were reported.
Cazares had a long criminal record dating back to 2000, including arrests for theft, driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana, according to court records. His most recent arrest was on April 19 on a charge of a felon in possession of a firearm.
On Sept. 18, 2020, Cazares was accused of trespassing inside the residence quarters of a Houston area fire station. When he was found inside the station, Cazares stated he knew he shouldn’t be there but “was scared because someone was following him earlier in the day,” according to court records. Just over a month later, Cazares was accused of damaging a motel room he was staying in because he was looking for a person he believed was also in his room and he had taken “some medication to calm him down,” according to court records.
Court records also show that Cazares spent 30 days getting care at a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Beaumont, Texas, in January and February.
Kevin Stryker, Cazares’ attorney on his felon in possession of a firearm charge, declined to comment about his client.
“You know, this is a horribly tragic incident, and you know this is the type of situation that should make us all pause, send out as many prayers as we can for all the families and all the lives that would be affected,” Slinkard said at a Thursday evening news conference.
It was unclear how many patrons were at the restaurant, but Slinkard said it wasn’t very crowded.
A spokeswoman for the restaurant referred questions about the shooting to Houston police.
The restaurant is popular with families, as it features a 150,000-gallon (567,811-liter) aquarium and amusement park rides, including a giant Ferris wheel. The dining complex is owned by billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s Landry’s Inc.
Elaine Khalil, who had been eating dinner with her two children, told KTRK-TV she heard two sets of gunshots, including a burst of four of five shots.
She said there was “panic and pandemonium” as people inside ran away.
“The wait staff, they were very composed, they led us to a back staircase where everyone ran out,” she said.