The estranged husband of a 27-year-old Plano, Texas, woman has been named as the gunman who went on a deadly rampage and fatally shot her and seven of her friends Sunday night at a Dallas Cowboys viewing party she hosted, PEOPLE confirms.
The Plano Police Department identified Spencer Hight, 32, as the gunman who took the lives of spouse Meredith Hight and seven others in the worst mass shooting in the city’s history. Two other victims survived the shooting and were taken to the hospital, where one later died, according to police.
In addition to Meredith, the deceased victims have been identified as Anthony Michael Cross, 33; Olivia Nicole Deffner, 24; James Richard Dunlop, 29; Darryl William Hawkins, 22; Rion Christopher Morgan, 31; Myah Sade Bass, 28; and 25-year-old Caleb Seth Edwards.
The shooting rocked the normally peaceful Dallas suburb.
“We’ve never had a shooting of this magnitude,” Plano Police Chief Gregory Rushin said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
“We’re one of the safest cities in the country,” he said. “It’s just a terrible event, and our hearts go out to the families and loved ones.”
Next of kin have been notified, police say. All victims were located in the backyard or the inside of the home.
No children were involved in the shooting. Police did not specify which victim died at the hospital.
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Spencer Hight was shot and killed by a responding officer, the police chief said.
Meredith’s family is devastated.
“She was our only child,” her father, Gene Lane, told the Washington Post. “All we know is she is gone.”
Trying to Build a New Life
After getting married in May 2011, Meredith and Spencer Hight bought a house together about two years ago — the same residence where the shooting took place, her mother, Debbie Lane, told the Dallas Morning News.
The couple’s relationship began to deteriorate a couple of years ago, Debbie told local TV station KXAS.
Meredith filed for divorce from Spencer in July. She was looking forward to her new life, which she wanted to celebrate with a cookout and party so she and her friends could watch her favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, in the afternoon, and the Dallas Cowboys later that night, her mother said.
Debbie said she had traveled from Georgia to help Meredith set up for the festivities.
“It was officially ‘out with the old and in with the new,’ ” Debbie told local station WFAA. “It was her reclaiming her life, and she was thrilled to be doing that. It was the happiest she’d been in years. Years.”
“I think he saw our comfort, ease, and happiness … and her [Meredith] embracing new life, and resented it to the maximum and responded the way he did,” Debbie told the station.
“He was not moving on,” she said. “And she was.”
Violence Breaks Out at Party
Police said an officer responded about 8 p.m. on Sunday to calls about multiple shots being fired at the home. When the officer entered the backyard, he found two victims outside. When he went inside the house, he saw more shooting victims, according to authorities.
“The officer found the suspect inside and ended his shooting spree,” Chief Rushin said at Monday’s news conference.
Spencer “came to the party with numerous weapons,” Rushin said.
Police are still investigating the incident.
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One of the victims, Caleb Edwards, was Meredith’s roommate. Another victim, James Dunlop, was a longtime friend. Rion Morgan was in Meredith’s wedding party.
“They were fine, fine young men. The best. The best,” Debbie, Meredith’s mom, told local media.
She said her daughter was a supervisor at Coca-Cola and had earned a math degree from University of Texas at Dallas.
“She was one of those people who felt life was a gift,” Debbie said.
PEOPLE’s calls for comment to the Plano Police Department and to the Lane and Hight families were not immediately returned.