A Christian mother from Texas who was shot dead by police after she gunned down her two adult daughters in the street as her husband watched in horror last Friday allegedly had a history of mental illness, according to local law enforcement officials.
Caitilin Espinosa, spokesperson with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, told PEOPLE that prior to the heartbreaking scene which unfolded on Friday, police had been to the home of the deceased mom, 42-year-old Christy Sheats, "for previous altercations" involving her "mental crisis."
When they responded again on Friday, the crisis was fatal.
The bodies of Sheats' two daughters, 17-year-old Madison and 22-year-old Taylor, were in the street after they allegedly fled from their mother when she began firing her gun inside the family home that she also shared with her husband, Jason, who was the only survivor of his wife's manic onslaught.
Fort Bend police said that at about 5:01 p.m. on Friday they began receiving 911 calls regarding shots fired in the Westheimer Lakes-North area. When police arrived they found two individuals, later identified as Sheats' daughters, shot in the street. Sheats, who was also in the street, was armed and refused to drop her weapon, so she was killed by an officer.
An eyewitness told ABC 13 that he saw Taylor, Madison and Jason running out of their home. The young women were already wounded. The neighbor said Taylor collapsed on the street and he saw Christy come outside with a gun and then go back inside to reload. When she returned, she shot Madison in the back, the eyewitness said.
"All I saw was the police officer aiming his rifle toward someone and saying 'drop your weapons,' and then afterward another gunshot," explained neighbor Sabeeh Siddiqui. "Soon after that there were a lot of police cars that came."
Neighbor Fazz Zainuddin told Click2Houston that Sheats' husband and the police tried to dissuade her from harming her daughters.
"The cops were behind the trees and behind the cars, and they told the mom to put the gun down and obviously she did not," Zainuddin said.
"She walked towards the body, I think Madison, already on the ground and I guess the cop was afraid that she was going to shoot her again," Zainuddin said.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls told Click2Houston that Jason watched his wife commit the brutal murders.
"He heard the dad say, 'Don't do this. They're our kids,'" Zainuddin said.
"He was going through a very difficult time," Nehls said.
Another neighbor, who said she was close to the family, told ABC13 that Jason and Christy had recently reunited after being separated. She said the shooting happened on Jason's birthday.
Many who knew the young women were shocked by the tragedy.
"She was just such a sweet girl. She had tons of friends, me and him both. I just can't believe it happened," a stunned Matthew Wiley said of Taylor.
Madison was set to start her senior year at Seven Lakes High School this fall.
"She seemed like a nice person. I talked to her a few times," neighbor Faaiz Siddiqui said. "Especially Taylor. She babysat us a few times and my brother got tutor lessons from her. All I can say is they are nice people. There's nothing wrong with them."
On her Facebook page, Christy Sheats often posted musings reflecting her love of God, family and guns.
"The two key founding documents in American history are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The first explains why we exist as a nation. Not only does the Declaration mention God four times, most importantly, it says that our rights come from the 'Creator,'" she noted in one post.
"The Constitution explains how we exist as a nation — how we are to function. The Constitution is predicated on the Declaration which is referenced in the ratification clause. When skeptics claim the Constitution doesn't mention God (which it does, in the ratification clause), they ignore that the latter is predicated on the former," she continued.
"Obama and liberal supporters think any mention of God in government is 'unconstitutional.' That, ironically, would make the Constitution itself 'unconstitutional,'" she added.