Updated: July 27, 2011 at 12:00 am
Colorado Springs police suspect a 24-year-old man gunned down three teenagers in a quiet neighborhood in north Colorado Springs on Wednesday night in one of three shootings within three hours that left another person dead and two others wounded.
The shootings were unrelated and were in different areas of the city, Colorado Springs police spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt said. Mayor Steve Bach, speaking at a news conference at police headquarters Thursday, condemned the violence and pledged a swift response.
“We are not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination and violence in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We are going to redouble our efforts and then double them again.”
Though no arrests have been made in the killings, police on Thursday named suspects in the night’s first and last shootings and swarmed three houses searching for the men believed responsible.
Michael Arangio, 24, of Colorado Springs, is being sought in connection with the fatal shootings of three teenagers on Mira Loma Circle. Police said he may be driving a green 2002 Nissan Xterra with the Colorado license plate 831-OLZ.
Police on Thursday evening searched the neighborhood near the shooting scene after a neighbor reported seeing a man who looks like Arangio. Police swarmed on two houses in the area about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, with police dogs, robots and officers carrying rifles.
Noblitt also said police are “hot on the heels” of a suspect in another one of the fatal shootings — 60-year-old Ernest Schmidt, who is being sought in the death of a man at an east-side AutoZone store.
Schmidt, a career thief who has served time in prison in four states since 1983, was on mandatory parole, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections. Police say he uses the alias Edward Coffey and claims to be 46 years old.
Wednesday night’s deadliest attack occurred about 10:20 p.m. in the 5200 block of Mira Loma Circle, near Academy Boulevard and Montebello Drive. Police said they were responding to a shots-fired call when they found three male shooting victims inside a sport utility vehicle.
Two were pronounced dead at the scene and another died at the hospital.
Police have not identified any of the victims, but friends and family members identified the three teens as 16-year-old Austin Howse and brothers Wayne Fix, 19, and Aaron Fix, 16.
According to Howse’s mother, Wayne Fix was the father of a 2-year-old girl, and the younger boys were childhood friends who attended different high schools. In a telephone interview from her family home, the tearful mother said she is still awaiting answers about what led to her son’s death.
“He was a very good boy,” Sharon Howse said. “He was never in trouble. He was never afraid to kiss his mom and dad in front of his friends. We don’t have any idea why this would happen to him.”
Police were stretched so thin by Wednesday night’s violence they asked residents to call police only for emergencies.
The first shots of the night were fired shortly after 8 p.m., and left one man dead of a gunshot wound in the parking lot of the AutoZone near Palmer Park and Powers boulevards.
A second gunshot victim was found inside the store, police said. He was in surgery late Wednesday and remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon.
A store employee, who did not give his name, said the shooting stemmed from a confrontation in the store, but was not a robbery and did not involve the store’s workers.
Police believe Schmidt took a man hostage in a carjacking and then sped away. The hostage was released unharmed two miles away at a Village Inn at Academy and Palmer Park boulevards.
The stolen vehicle was found later near Academy Boulevard and Maizeland Road.
Schmidt is being sought on suspicion of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and second-degree kidnapping, police said.
The second shooting occurred about 8:30 p.m., when a 21-year-old man was wounded by police officers at the Camelot Apartments near Murray Boulevard and Airport Roads.
Police said they responded to a disturbance and pursued a man armed with a pistol into a nearby building.
Three officers opened fire on the man after he ran into his apartment and pointed his gun at officers, police spokesman Sgt. David Edmondson said. He was unsure what prompted the shooting.
“At this time, it does not look like he fired a shot,” Edmondson said Wednesday.
Castle Hewitt,a neighbor, said she saw the man burning his girlfriend’s clothes after the couple got into an argument earlier Wednesday.
She then saw officers arrive and try to talk to the man, but they backed away when they saw he had a gun.
A few minutes later, she heard eight to 10 gunshots ring out next to her apartment, with one of the bullets going through her living room and a glass door in the back of her apartment.
“As soon as the (gun) fire went off, I ducked and grabbed the dog,” Hewitt said. “Go figure: The first thing I grab is the dog.”
The three officers have been placed on three days of paid administrative leave and the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether the shooting was justified.
Few details were released about the triple killing on Mira Loma Circle, leaving friends and family members struggling to account for the deaths of three teens they say kept out of trouble and excelled in school.
Scott Devine, who lives a couple blocks from where the shooting took place, said he heard seven shots late Wednesday night, then a pause, and then eight more shots. He looked outside and saw a silver car racing up Mira Loma Circle.
He looked on Thursday evening as SWAT officers raided a house where Arangio had been living a few months ago on Mira Loma Circle. Police also raided a second house near the intersection of Flintridge Drive and Mira Loma Circle in search of Arangio.
“It sounded like there was no mercy,” Devine said of the sound of gunfire.
Arangio was arrested in May on suspicion of felony menacing with a real or simulated weapon, a Class 5 felony, as well as trespassing, a petty offense. Details of the incident were not immediately available.
Around 7 a.m. Thursday, police SWAT officers descended on a home in the 2500 block of Gina Drive, searching for the suspect in the AutoZone killing, according to a neighbor.
Police fired tear gas into the home and sent a bomb squad robot through the front door.
Around 10:15 a.m., police reopened streets and SWAT officers left the area. No arrests were announced and no information was released about whether explosives were found.
Aaron St. Germain, who lives across the street, said a police sniper and his partner set up in his basement. From officers’ description of the suspect, St. Germain believes they were looking for a former tenant who moved out of the home they raided about two months ago.
The shooting at AutoZone has been ruled a homicide by the El Paso County Coroner’s Office, the 14th this year in Colorado Springs. If the rest of Wednesday night’s deaths are ruled homicides, it will push the year’s homicide tally to 17.
The police-involved shooting marks the second officer-involved shooting in less than a week in the Pikes Peak region.
Gazette reporters Jakob Rodgers, Ryan Maye Handy, Angie Jackson, Emily Wilkins, Lance Benzel, Maria St. Louis-Sanchez, R. Scott Rappold and Joel Millman contributed to this story.