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Garland Neighbors Kept Each Other Updated In The Hours After Shooting

Sunday night's shooting at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center surprised many people who live and frequent this Dallas suburban community. Residents in one nearby neighborhood kept each other updated throughout the evening. They say the event is a reminder that incidents like this one can happen anywhere.

Rich Muha was out walking his dog Sunday night when he saw four helicopters buzzing overhead. He didn’t know what had happened until he went inside his home and turned on the local news.

“I would probably quote my son, my 25-year-old son on that, saying that it can happen anywhere,” Muha said. “Very surprised to hear that it would happen here.”

Police say two men in a dark vehicle drove into the parking lot at the event center, which is owned by the Garland Independent School District. Two hundred people were inside attending a contest and exhibit featuring cartoon depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Sarah Rojas lives nearby and has a newborn. She heard a loud boom when police detonated several items in the car to check for explosives.

“It was really scary and concerning,” Rojas said. “I also have an 8 year-old and she was crying. She was scared. She actually slept with us last night. It was hard, really hard.”

Rojas was one of the first homeowners to move into Reserve at Firewheel, built a little more than 3 years ago. The area is a mix of new and old construction – big box retail stores, $200,000 to $300,000 homes, a high school and a 33-acre preserve. Just southeast of there, smaller wood-framed homes dot a two-lane road that runs parallel to the George Bush Turnpike.

Rojas says everyone knows each other on her street.

“We do a lot of things together, activities together, and you know, we stick together,” Rojas said. “Actually, I text my neighbors – we have each other’s numbers and they just said, ‘We’re praying. We’re hoping it’s nothing.’ ”

At a time when not every neighborhood is this close-knit, residents here say they’re going to stay vigilant and in touch with each other.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.