INDIANAPOLIS – Police officers fired tear gas into a house and broke down a door to enter Friday in their search for the main suspect in the slaying of seven family members, but apparently came away empty handed.
Dozens of officers surrounded the house, where a police spokesman said they believed 28-year-old ex-convict Desmond Turner was inside.
After the SWAT team members entered the house, they came back outside, packed up their gear and left the scene.
While the search for Turner apparently continued, police Maj. Lloyd Crowe would give no details on the storming of the house just blocks from Thursday night's shooting scene or how police determined Turner might be inside.
Crowe said a man described as a secondary suspect was arrested earlier Friday, but provided no details about that arrest.
The seven victims, described as well-liked and good neighbors, were found dead late Thursday in the worst mass murder in Indianapolis in 25 years. The crime rocked their working-class neighborhood just east of downtown.
The bodies of three boys, ages 5 to 11, were found on a bed, and four adult relatives were discovered elsewhere in the house.
Police said the attackers — a witness reported seeing three or four men run out the back of the house — were armed with assault rifles.
Police said Turner grew up in the area and had returned last fall after getting out of prison on drug and weapons charges.
"It appears that it was a home robbery. He'd gone there to rob the home and decided while he was there to execute everybody at the same time, unfortunately," police Sgt. Matthew Mount said.
Killed were Emma Valdez, 46; her husband, Alberto Covarrubias, 56; their sons Alberto Covarrubias, 11, and David Covarrubias, 8 or 9; Valzez's daughter, Flora Albarran, 22; Albarran's 5-year-old son, Luis; and Albarran's brother Magno Albarran, 29.
Police had said they were looking for at least three people other than Turner in the shootings, but gave no details about them.
"You couldn't ask for better neighbors," said Frank Dodson, 49, who lives across the street from the slain family. "God, I hate to see this happen."
He said he thought he saw Flora Albarran being pulled into the home about 10 p.m. Thursday. Police say she had just finished running errands for her new home when she returned to her mother's house to pick up her son. When Albarran walked up to the house, a female friend waiting in a car saw a light come on and heard Albarran scream, "Don't do that! My child!"
Albarran yelled to the friend not to come to the house, and the friend heard gunshots and more screaming, police said. A man holding a long gun stepped onto the porch, possibly to spot the friend, while the shootings continued. The friend, whose name was withheld by police for her protection, said she then saw the men run from the back of the home.
The neighborhood, about a mile east of downtown Indianapolis, is in decline. Some houses have boarded-up windows, and there are vacant lots strewn with litter and overgrown with weeds. Residents have called police to report drug activity, prostitution, thefts and assaults.
"We have been complaining and complaining," said Sandy Washington, 65. "Our voices aren't heard."
At nearby St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, a parish of generally working-class whites and Hispanics, a regularly scheduled Friday morning Mass was offered for the family.
The Rev. Carlton Beever, the church's pastor, said the family attended Mass each Sunday and David and Alberto Covarrubias had made their First Communion there a few weeks ago.
"All seven were active," Beever said. "Everyone kind of knew them and liked them."
The enormity of the killings might be unprecedented in the city's history. In August 1981, a laid-off autoworker, King Edward Bell, killed his estranged wife, four children and his mother-in-law. Bell, 31, was sentenced to six consecutive 40-year prison terms.