12/25/2011 06:50 EST | Updated 02/24/2012 05:12 EST

Dallas Christmas shooting leaves 7 dead

Seven people believed to be related had opened their Christmas gifts and were cleaning up the wrapping paper when they were shot to death in a suburban Fort Worth apartment, police said Sunday.

Authorities said they believe the shooter is among the dead.

Four women and three men, aged 18 to 60, were found in an adjoining kitchen and living room area when police entered the apartment shortly after 11:30 a.m., said Grapevine police Sgt. Robert Eberling. Two handguns were found near the bodies in the apartment that was decorated for Christmas with a tree, he added.

"It appears they had just celebrated Christmas. They had opened their gifts," Eberling said.

The victims have not yet been identified, but Eberling said it appears they all died of gunshot wounds.

"We are pretty confident that the shooter is among the deceased victims inside the apartment. We are not actively looking for a shooter that we believe is at large," he said.

Police and firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving an open-ended 911 call at about 11:30 a.m., Eberling said.

"There was an open line. No one was saying anything," he explained.

So police went into the apartment, located in a middle-class, suburban neighbourhood of Grapevine, not far from the upscale Fort Worth neighbourhood of Colleyville.

The apartment where the incident occurred is at the back of the complex, overlooking the athletic fields of Colleyville Heritage High School. But many of the nearby apartments are vacant, and police said no neighbours reported hearing anything on a quiet Christmas morning when many people were not around.

Jose Fernandez, a heavy equipment mechanic who moved to the complex with his family about six months ago, said he always felt safe in the area, but is now afraid to let his son, 10, play freely outside.

"This is really outrageous especially on Christmas," said Fernandez, 35, who was visiting family for the holiday and returned to find several police cars parked outside his home. "This has shocked everybody. It has scared everybody. I guess something like this can happen anywhere, but seven people dead — it's just very scary."

Eberling said it is the first homicide case in Grapevine since 2010.

Christy Posch, a flight attendant who moved to the complex about six months ago so her son could attend the high school, said she lives a few buildings away and did not hear any gunshots.

"It's all families. That's why I moved here. No burglaries, no nothing," Posch said.