A gunman who opened fire in Houston on Monday, wounding nine people before dying in a shootout with police, was wearing military attire with Nazi emblems, authorities said.
The disgruntled lawyer had two weapons and hundreds of rounds of live ammunition when he randomly shot at drivers in a Houston neighborhood before he was shot and killed by police, authorities said.
Police did not identify the man and did not have information about a motive.
A bomb-squad robot examined a Porsche that police said belonged to the gunman. Texas motor vehicle records in a commercially available database showed the car is licensed to Nathan DeSai at an address in the condo complex.
The shooter was wearing what appeared to be historic military clothing with Nazi emblems, and employed at least one gun, commonly known as a Tommy gun, that was popular among gangsters during America’s prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s, police said.
He used a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, a .45 caliber semi-automatic Thompson Carbine rifle, and had 2,600 rounds of live ammunition, police said. Both weapons were purchased legally, and the shooter had a concealed-carry license, the ATF said.
Authorities were unsure of the significance of the Nazi emblems, especially because they said they found other historic military paraphernalia in the shooter’s apartment dating back to the Civil War.
Nine officers were involved in a shootout with the man police said.
Authorities and witnesses described a harrowing scene at approximately 6:30 am, in which the shooter stood next to his car — using a tree for cover — and fired a rifle and a handgun indiscriminately at passing cars and at responding officers.
“The shots were coming almost non-stop. Four, five, six at a time,” said Jaime Zamora, a cameraman for Houston television station KTRK, who witnessed some of the shooting. He estimated that between 30 and 50 shots were fired.
Local stations broadcast images of multiple cars with bullet holes and broken windows.
Of the nine people injured, six were sent to hospitals, while three were treated and released near the scene of the incident. One person was in critical condition and another in serious condition.
“We have high hopes that all these folks are going to survive their injuries,” said David Persse, Houston’s medical director.
Mayor Sylvester Turner told KTRK-TV in Houston that DeSai was a lawyer who was “disgruntled” and was “either fired or had a bad relationship with this law firm.”
But DeSai’s former law partner, Kenneth McDaniel, disputed that assertion, saying they jointly closed their 12-year-old law firm in February due to economic conditions related to Houston’s energy industry downturn.
McDaniel also said he hadn’t had contact with DeSai lately and that police called him Monday morning to check on his safety, though they didn’t explain why.
“He went his way with his practice and I went with mine,” McDaniel said, adding, “All I can say it’s a horrible situation. I’m sad for everyone involved.”
Calls placed to phone numbers connected to DeSai and his father were not immediately answered. DeSai’s father, Prakash DeSai, told KTRK that his son lived in the condo complex and drives a black Porsche. He also said his son, whom he saw Sunday, was upset because “his law practice is not going well” and stays upset “because of his personal problems.”
Perrye Turner, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston Division, said officials don’t believe the incident is tied to terrorism.
Jennifer Molleda and her husband live in the same condo complex as Nathan DeSai. Though she heard gunshots about 6:12 a.m. and called 911, her husband left for work. The 45-year-old called not long after and he told her, “I’m hit, I’m hit.”
After the shooting stopped, Molleda found her husband, 49-year-old Alan Wakim, several blocks away in the parking lot of a strip mall. His Mustang had two shots that went through the windshield, and he told her that he saw a red laser beam before the shots were fired. He was taken to a hospital to be treated.
“He got out of his car, we hugged, we cried,” Molleda said, adding that after she saw everything, she believes DeSai was “aiming to kill.”
Jason Delgado, the property manager of The Oaks at West University condo complex, said DeSai was involved in two recent incidents at the complex.
In August, Delgado said, police were called after roofers working in the complex said DeSai pointed an assault-style rifle at them. He said there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward with charges because the man contended he didn’t point the gun at roofers. Molleda mentioned the same incident.
Last week, DeSai became upset because of water pressure problems at his home, asked for maintenance help and expressed his displeasure in an email to the management firm that implied he’d “intimidate his way to getting what he was asking for,” Delgado said.