HOLBROOK, Ariz. (AP) — A man shot and killed the mother of his grandchildren in front of horrified family members following a custody hearing involving the kids in rural Arizona, authorities said Wednesday.
Salomon Diaz is accused of opening fire Tuesday evening outside a courthouse in the town of Holbrook, also killing the woman's mother and injuring the children's aunt. The 47-year-old Snowflake man was booked on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Diaz had been taking care of his grandchildren for an extended time, authorities said. His son is the children's father. Authorities declined to describe the relationship between the suspect's son and the children's mother.
They have said the shooting stemmed from a dispute involving the custody hearing, but no other details on the hearing have been released. It wasn't immediately clear if Diaz had an attorney.
The children's mother, 25-year-old Ashley Utley, and their grandmother, 45-year-old Sherry Quintero-Davenport, were killed after encountering Diaz near the entrance of Navajo County Superior Court. The children's aunt was also injured and was recovering at a hospital.
Local and state law enforcement officers were at the scene in less than a minute, and Diaz was taken into custody.
Investigators spent the evening and much of the night at the scene.
Many of the victims' family members were present when the shooting happened, Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon said in a statement. The family and county employees were visibly shaken by what happened, he said.
The county planned to have counselors available to help.
"The sad part is tomorrow there will be another tragedy somewhere, and this senseless killing will be forgotten by most," Carlyon said. "But it won't be forgotten by those who suffered a loss tonight. And it won't be forgotten by the law enforcement officers investigating, nor by the people in my office who will be prosecuting this case."
The gunfire prompted authorities to briefly lock down the courthouse as officers swept the building to ensure the safety of the public and workers.
A check of Arizona court records showed Diaz was cited for various traffic violations over the years but didn't appear to have any arrests for violent crimes.
Investigators have not provided any details about the custody hearing or the dispute.
"We don't know the specifics of it," county spokesman Adam Wolfe said late Tuesday. "It appears to be a personal motive. This is not a mass shooting attempt."
Holbrook has a population of about 5,000. It sits along Route 66 and is about 90 miles east of Flagstaff.