RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – An accused gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a west Houston neighborhood Sunday was increasingly disturbed after two tours in Afghanistan, his family said.
Dionisio Garza III was shot and killed Sunday by a Houston Police SWAT officer after he used a high-powered rifle and a pistol to shoot seven people, killing one.
It’s a stark contrast from the loving son whom his mother remembers.
"That boy that did that horrific thing was not Dionisio Garza. It's not the boy I've raised. It's not the boy I've known," his mother, Michelle Garza, said.
Garza's mother, father, two sisters and brother sat in Michelle Garza's Southern California home on Monday, sharing stories about him playing with his young niece and nephew and describing him as "loving."
"We were such a close family. I mean, there's so many of us. We just always did things together, we tried to do family vacations together every year, all together," Michelle Garza said.
Shortly after Garza graduated from high school, he joined the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan.
His father, who shares the same name, said his son was changed by what he saw, and was troubled by the deaths of several friends during his deployment. He recalled his son calling him in the middle of the night, telling him that he "felt like he couldn't love anymore" and that he felt "like a blank sheet of paper."
In the days before Garza allegedly opened fire in a West Houston neighborhood, his family noticed that he became obsessed with conspiracies that the dollar was collapsing and the world was about to end.
"Just in the last two weeks, it progressively got worse. It was not the same boy that we raised. Not the loving uncle, the loving brother," his father said.
Garza's sister said he told her that he was going to Texas to visit a friend who served with him in the Army, asking her to come with him for fear that his family would die if she didn't.
His siblings and parents were concerned, but said Garza never threatened to hurt himself or others.
Garza packed his car and drove to Houston, his sister said. It would be the last time she saw him alive.
Garza's mother got a message from one of her son's friends, alerting her to the shooting in Houston and telling her he believed that Garza was involved. His parents were shocked.
"Something snapped. It wasn't him anymore. I'm not making excuses. No excuses. I know he did this, but it wasn't him anymore. My son was broken," his father said.
Asked what they would tell the families of the victims, his mother wept, her palm covering her face.
"I'm sorry for what happened. I'm sorry to the families. Words are just words. I wish there was more that we could do," Michelle Garza said.
The family said they have been in touch with Houston police and are waiting for Garza's body to be identified by the medical examiner.