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Suspect’s Dislike for Drugs, Homelessness May Have Led to Shootings That Killed 4 in Metro Phoenix

A man’s anger over drug abuse drove him to fatally shoot four men and wound a woman in a 12-hour crime spree in metro Phoenix, authorities said.

Iren Byers, 20, was taken into custody Sunday on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder, police in the suburb of Mesa said.

He remained jailed without bond Tuesday, and it wasn’t immediately known if Byers has a lawyer yet who can speak on his behalf. His next scheduled court appearance is later this week.

Byers apparently met the victims at random on Friday at a range of places including a park and a convenience store, police said.

He shot most of them in the head when the topic turned to drugs, according to police investigators.

The deceased were all men between the age of 40 and 41.

“He’s claiming that when people are asking him if he wanted to get high on fentanyl, things like that, then it really upset him because his brother was using that type of drug, and that set him off,”

Mesa police Detective Richard Encinas told Phoenix radio station KTAR on Tuesday.

There have been a number of high-profile drug seizures in recent months in the nation’s fifth-largest city.

Authorities seized more than 1 million fentanyl pills from a Mexican man in Phoenix two months ago. That followed seizures of 165,000 pills, 137,000 pills and 122,000 pills from drug traffickers in Phoenix in January.

Phoenix also has been in the throes of dueling lawsuits over managing homelessness that has converted its downtown into a tent city housing hundreds of people as summer temperatures soar.

Striking a balance between meeting the demands of residents and business owners but respecting the rights of homeless people is a dilemma facing major cities around the U.S.

Mesa police arrested Byers near his grandmother’s apartment complex about a half mile (0.8 kilometers) from the last shooting.

Byers took responsibility for the shootings and told officers where they could find the clothes and 9mm handgun used in the crimes, police said.

Video surveillance footage showed the suspect wearing the clothing reported by witnesses at multiple shooting scenes, police said.

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Written by Rene Harris