PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix home where a man gunned down his parents and sisters was always a place of fun family outings.
Vic Buckner, 50, manned the grill and was known for his barbecue skills. His wife, Kimberly, 49, was a gracious host. Their daughter Emma, 6, loved drawing and ballet, and older sister Kaitlin, 18, was studying to become an ultrasound technician.
The family bonds were shattered this week when the oldest son, Alex Arthur Buckner, 26, opened fire in the home Tuesday morning, killing his parents and his two sisters.
He then shot at officers who tried to rescue the victims, authorities said.
Kaitlin Buckner called 911 shortly before 5 a.m., pleading for help and saying her brother had shot her. The first officers on scene ran into the burning house because they felt they had to act quickly. Faced with gunfire and smoke, they were able to pull out only two victims.
A tactical team stormed in nearly an hour later when the shots stopped, killing Buckner as he raised his weapon.
All the victims had gunshot wounds, but a medical examiner will determine how they died.
Investigators continue to comb through charred and water-damaged debris of the house where the Buckners often hosted family get-togethers.
Rick Zard, a cousin of Alex Buckner, said Vic Buckner grilled some of the best barbecue, and Kimberly Buckner, whose brother is Zard's father, loved to have people over.
"We had Christmas at her house. She opened up her home to everybody," Zard said. "She was just that way. She cared about everybody and never left anybody out."
The couple was devoted to all three of their children, he said. "They were raised in just the most loving family I've ever known. That sounds so cliche, but that house was filled with nothing but love," Zard said.
Kaitlin Buckner had just started taking classes at community college with a goal of being an ultrasound technician.
"She was extremely intelligent and had a bright future," Zard said. "She just had the biggest, brightest simile. She was just always in a good mood."
Zard, who lives in Phoenix, said his 4-year-old daughter and Emma regularly played together. The 6-year-old loved to draw and be in the company of others.
"Even the first time she'd meet somebody, she'd take right to them. She was extremely outgoing and extremely playful," he said.
Alex Buckner suffered from emotional problems, Zard told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"What happened isn't because of anything in his upbringing," he said. "He was always fun, outgoing and playful and he was extremely loving. What happened there, that's not him. That's not who he was."
The family has started a GoFundMe page as well as Chase Bank account to help with the overwhelming costs of five burials, including one for Alex Buckner.
"As much as it hurts to realize what happened and the fact that he was a part of it, we all understand it wasn't him," Zard said. "He was a victim in this just as much as everybody else."
Follow Terry Tang on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttangAP