4 dead, 1 injured in shooting at toddler’s birthday party in Texas

One man is in custody and another is being sought after a shooting at a toddler’s birthday party in south Texas left four men dead and one injured, officials said Sunday.

Police responded to reports of a shooting at a 1-year-old’s party in Taft, north of Corpus Christi, and arrived around 5:15 p.m. Saturday to find four men dead, said Sgt. Nathan Brandley of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

An altercation between two families caused the violence, but authorities provided no details about the nature of the dispute.

Those killed were identified as Juan Espinoza Sr., 62; and his grandsons Juan Sandoval III, 20; Jeremy Sandoval, 22; and Nicky Sandoval, 25. All were from Taft.

Juan Espinoza Jr., 43, the elder man’s son and father to the three younger men, was airlifted to a hospital in Corpus Christi, Brandley said. He is critical condition but is expected to survive, Brandley said.

Brandley identified the suspects as Ronnie Rodriguez Jr., 20, who is in custody, and Ronnie Rodriguez Sr., 37, who is still at large. Authorities didn’t provide details about their relationship.

Belinda Espinoza, the daughter of Juan Espinoza Sr., said her family grew up with the suspects and knew them well. She was not at the house when the shooting occurred.

She said her father was a farmer and a family man.

“He did everything he could for us,”she told CNN. “He was happily married to his first and only love my mother, Eulalia Sandoval.”

She said of her brother, Juan Espinoza Jr., “would give the shirt off his back for others and his children. He always opened his home to anyone.”

Her three nephews were all good men, she said, and Jeremy Sandoval leaves behind a young son and wife.

Taft is a town of about 3,000 people.