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3 dead and 2 police officers wounded by Florida gunman, who was also killed

<i>WESH</i><br/>Palm Bay Police Chief Mariano Augello speaks at a press conference in Palm Bay
Palm Bay Police Chief Mariano Augello speaks at a press conference in Palm Bay

By Joe Sutton, Jamiel Lynch and Rebekah Riess, CNN

(CNN) — Three victims died and two police officers were shot in Palm Bay, Florida, when the officers responded to a domestic disturbance call Sunday afternoon, according to authorities.

The gunman was also killed, police said.

Brandon Kapas, 24, killed his grandfather, William Michael Kapas, 78, during a shootout with police, Palm Bay Police Chief Mariano Augello said at a Monday news conference.

Before his encounter with officers, Kapas also shot and killed two people – a retired priest, Robert John Hoeffner, 76, and his 69-year-old sister, Sally Joan Hoeffner – at a home a few miles away from where the gun battle with officers took place, police said. Their bodies were discovered by investigators looking into a vehicle used by the assailant.

Police have not been able to identify the relationship between the shooter and Robert and Sally Hoeffner, and noted the “motive behind Kapas’ actions remains unclear,” according to a news release on Tuesday.

Police also clarified that Kapas shot and killed his grandfather after shooting and injuring Palm Bay Police Officers Stephen Ball and Nicholas Franze. “Due to Kapas’ direct actions, he (Brandon Kapas) was subsequently shot and killed at 1436hrs,” the release said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Officers Stephen Ball and Nicholas Franze who are in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery. And also to the families of the victims involved in this senseless tragedy,” the police department wrote.

One of the wounded officers was to be released from the hospital Monday and the other is recovering from surgery, Augello said.

At about 2:20 p.m. Sunday, officers responded to a home in northeast Palm Bay where a birthday party was underway, police said. When they got there, officers talked to an uncle of Kapas who told them he was causing a disturbance.

Kapas left the home and wouldn’t talk to the officers as he briskly walked by, Augello said. Because the uncle had told police Kapas had an “arsenal of weapons” in his vehicle, an officer tried to stop him with a Taser, according to the chief, but it didn’t work.

The officer struggled with Kapas, who broke free and began shooting. Kapas’ grandfather was fatally struck, and officers arriving at the scene shot and killed the assailant, Augello said.

“Our officers did what they were trained to do. And that’s to neutralize and stop a threat to our community,” Augello had said on Sunday. The suspect was killed after engaging the officers “with lethal force,” he added.

There was indeed an arsenal of guns in the vehicle the suspect was trying to reach, but the car was registered to someone else, the chief said.

When detectives went to the vehicle owner’s house they found two people who had been fatally shot.

“Throughout his priesthood, Father Hoeffner served the people of God with compassion and humility. We will miss his grace-filled presence,” Most Rev. John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando, said in a statement, which included his prayers for the wounded officers.

“This is all tragic,” Augello said. “We don’t know the motive right now.”

The chief said he believes officers prevented a possible active shooter situation and more casualties.

“Our officers’ actions yesterday prevented something even more tragic or devastating from happening,” he added.

Palm Bay Mayor Rob Medina said in an earlier statement he was “saddened to have been informed of the tragic events in our beloved city.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families that are experiencing the loss of life of their loved ones,” Medina said, adding he was thankful the officers’ injuries are not life-threatening. “They continue to exemplify service before self as they serve and protect our families.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be conducting an investigation into the officer-involved shooting.

Palm Bay is about 74 miles southeast of Orlando.

CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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