Man Allegedly Shoots Two Family Members, Believing They Were Performing 'Witchcraft' on Him: Sheriff

Wilman Sandoval, 23, has been charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault against family members

<p>Harris County Sheriff

Harris County Sheriff's Office

Wilman Sandoval, 23, in his January 2024 mug shot.

The man thought his family was putting a curse on him, according to the local sheriff.

So, Wilman Sandoval “got up off the couch” and, while walking toward an area by the front door and kitchen, “began firing a black handgun” at members of his family Sunday afternoon, according to preliminary court records in Texas obtained by PEOPLE.

Sandoval, 23, has been charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault against his family members, according to the online court records.

In a post on X late Sunday night, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Sandoval seemed to believe members of his family had been “committing witchcraft on him.”

Elaborating on the potential motive at a press conference Sunday night, Gonzalez said his investigators were operating on the premise that “the alleged shooter may have suspected that family members were conducting some type of witchcraft on him, and he was upset about it.”

<p>KHOU 11</p> Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez


Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez

When asked by reporters if other emergency calls had been made from the Houston apartment, Gonzalez said his deputies were investigating to determine “if something had already been brewing for a while.”

Around 4 p.m. Sunday, deputies responded to a 911 call regarding a shooting at the Houston apartment complex, Gonzalez said at the press conference following Sandoval’s 7 p.m. arrest, noting that five family members lived together in the apartment. He said investigators had recovered the pistol and were canvassing the apartment complex for others who might have witnessed the shooting.

Early in the investigation, many details of the shooting remained unclear, with the sheriff’s office mistakenly misidentifying family members and court records excluding names of the victims in some documents and misspelling them in others.

Piecing together court records with additional information from the sheriff’s office and prosecutors, PEOPLE confirms that standing from the couch Sunday afternoon, Sandoval allegedly turned the gun first on a woman named Heidi Vázquez, shooting her multiple times, before turning the gun on her brother, Christian Vázquez. Sandoval allegedly fired at him twice, “striking him once in the head,” per a narrative written by prosecutors seeking sufficient bail in a motion filed Monday. (Heidi Vázquez is identified by the sheriff's office as Sandoval's fiancée and by a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as his sister-in-law.)

Sandoval “was standing at the end of the stairs to the apartment holding a black handgun and pointing it directly” at a third person – Wilmer Sandoval, the accused shooter’s brother – who tried to nurse the woman's injuries, per the allegations in the prosecutors’ motion.

Senior Deputy Thomas M. Gilliland alleges to PEOPLE that Sandoval “pointed the gun at” his brother “but did not fire.” (A spokesman for the district attorney's office confirmed that of the three victims listed in court records, the woman and her brother were the only gunshot victims.)

Both family members were stable, although Heidi Vázquez was in critical condition Tuesday, per the sheriff’s senior deputy.

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Despite Gonzalez's allegation that Sandoval thought he was a victim of witchcraft, Gilliland said the shooting was for “an unknown motive.”

A spokesman for the district attorney's office added that prosecutors had “no details about a motive” and preliminary court records did not mention witchcraft.

On Monday, at his probable cause hearing, a judge set Sandoval’s bond at $250,000, per online court records. (The senior deputy sheriff said Sandoval was being held on a $500,000 bond.) Sandoval, who has not yet pleaded to the three second-degree felony charges according to those records, is slated to be back in court January 19.

The local public defender's office, who is representing Sandoval, did not respond for comment on the case.

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