LUBBOCK, Texas » The mother of a Marine killed after a shooting spree that left one dead in Texas said today that she doesn’t know what prompted the attacks, including the stabbing of his wife in North Carolina.
Lance Cpl. Esteban J. Smith, a 23-year-old Marine, died Sunday in a gunfight with Texas authorities after a shooting rampage that left one person dead and several hospitalized. Authorities believe Smith fatally stabbed his wife, Rubi Estefania Smith of Bakersfield, Calif., in a Jacksonville, N.C., motel room near Camp Lejeune before the shooting rampage.
Esteban Smith’s mother, Rosalva Jimenez, told The Associated Press in a phone interview today that she last spoke to her son on Thursday. She said her daughter-in-law had recently traveled from their California hometown to North Carolina to surprise him. She said her last phone conversation with her son was brief because he was at work and that she knew of nothing that would have led to the crimes.
“He was OK, but he went crazy all of a sudden,” she said, speaking in Spanish.
She said her son had just married Jimenez in December and that he was preparing to leave the armed forces. “He wanted to come back, go to college, become a mechanical engineer,” she said.
Smith was a veteran of two combat tours in Afghanistan, but Jimenez said she never asked him about what happened there. “I didn’t want to hear,” she said, adding that she hadn’t wanted her son to go to war.
She also said she didn’t know of any problems between her son and his wife. “Maybe they argued and he went crazy,” she said.
Authorities have said the Texas victims were likely randomly targeted but have not said why Smith made the 1,500-mile trip to the town of Eden or where he may have been going.
“I imagine he was in Texas because maybe he was driving home” to Bakersfield, his mother said. “That’s the road he would take.”
Jimenez said she’s sad for the people affected but that her son wasn’t a monster.
“He was a very bright, quiet, calm man. He was the type of person that would not even like when you would raise your voice,” she said.
A West Texas sheriff wounded by the gunman told The Associated Press the shootings appeared to be indiscriminate.
“This guy was intent on killing anybody and everybody,” said Concho County Sheriff Richard Doane, who was shot near his left ear. “None of it makes sense.”
Doane said he is uncertain whether Smith killed himself or was killed by law enforcement.
Smith, who was also from Bakersfield, was stationed with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Base spokesman Master Sgt. Jonathan Cress said investigators have determined the firearms used in the shootings were not issued by the military.
An assault rifle, handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were recovered from Smith’s vehicle.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Krebs said Smith enlisted in November 2008. He returned from his second tour as an infantry rifleman in Afghanistan in November 2012. He was awarded several decorations, including a Combat Action Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Krebs said.
The Texas shootings began about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, when the gunman shot a passenger in a car carrying three people in their 20s in the Eden area of Concho County, about 210 miles southwest of Dallas, Doane said
Doane said Smith pulled up behind the trio’s car and started firing.
“They thought he was throwing rocks at them and he was actually shooting at them,” Doane said.
The driver slammed on his brakes, turned around and headed toward Eden, where he hid the vehicle in a car dealership lot. That move probably saved their lives, Doane said.
Over the next 90 minutes, two more people were shot while sitting in a car at a convenience store in adjacent McCulloch County. Both were treated and released from a hospital, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.
Shortly after 6 a.m., Alicia Torres, 41, was found dead in her car in Eola, just east of San Angelo, Vinger said.
Doane said when authorities discovered the shooter was headed toward Eden again, they had to act quickly.
“We made a decision: We can’t let him back to town,” he said.
The suspect fired on Doane’s vehicle when the sheriff came upon him north of Eden. He died during a gunfight with a DPS trooper and a state game warden coming to Doane’s aide, according to the DPS.
Rubi Smith’s remains were found Sunday afternoon at a motel near the gates of the sprawling Marine base on the North Carolina coast. Police spokeswoman Beth Purcell said Rubi Estefania Smith appears to have died from a knife wound.
Injured in the Texas rampage were Laura Mandanas, 26, of New York; Casimiro Solis, 48, and Charlotte Feldman, 43, both of Brady, Texas; and Eric Kothmann, 52, of Menard, Texas. All were treated at hospitals and released, Vinger said.
Without stops, it is more than a 22-hour drive from Jacksonville, N.C. to Eden, Texas.
Biesecker reported from Raleigh, N.C. Associated Press writer Juan Carlos Llorca contributed to this report from El Paso, Texas.