The man accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife and their two children before getting into a shootout with police at a central Phoenix apartment complex on Christmas Day is being held without bond.
Police on Tuesday identified the suspect as Anthony Milan Ross. Charged with three counts of first-degree murder and 19 counts of aggravated assault on an officer, among others, Ross made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.
[WATCH RAW VIDEO: Anthony Milan Ross' initial court appearance]
When they arrived, officers found Iris Ross, 38, in the front patio area of the complex. She had been shot to death, according to Sgt. Jonathan Howard with the Phoenix Police Department.
Witnesses said Iris was trying to run away from Ross, according to court paperwork. Witnesses also said they saw him going through her pants pockets. According to the probable cause for arrest statement, Ross told officers he was looking for her key fob because he "wanted to move her vehicle so he could leave in his vehicle to an undetermined location."
That's all he said on the record before asking for an attorney.
Court documents indicate that Ross has relatives out of town.
The children, 10-month-old Anora Ross and 11-year-old Nigel Ross, were unaccounted for, but witnesses said they believed they were in Ross' apartment.
Witnesses reported hearing "two to three more gunshots from inside [his] apartment," according to court paperwork.
A standoff between Ross and police went on for several hours; officers cordoned off the apartment complex to keep residents away.
Several people waited in parked cars across the street for hours until the situation was resolved.
"I can't believe it's Christmas and there's a shooting or whatever's going on. It's eerie. I feel bad for whoever is going through this," said Kristen Alexander.
"Throughout the negotiations, [Ross] made comments that he had killed the children. He made some notifications to some family members that he had killed the children," Howard said.
At some point during the standoff, Ross became inconsistent with what he was telling police.
"During negotiations, the suspect changed his story and stated the children were alive and he threatened to kill them," Howard said Tuesday morning.
"Officers determine it was necessary to make entry as they were unclear on the condition of the children," according to Ross' court paperwork.
When officers forced their way inside, they located Anora's body.
"Fearing the other child may be injured, officers attempted to enter other parts of the apartment where they were fired upon by Anthony Ross," according to the police narrative.
A 46-year-old officer with 23 years of service was injured by "either direct or indirect gunfire." He was taken to the hospital and was in stable condition at last check.
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Ross was not injured and was eventually taken into custody.
Nigel was found dead in another room.
Just the night before -- Christmas Eve -- he and his father happily sang "Santa Claus is Comin to Town" together in a video Ross posted to Facebook just hours before the shooting.
Court records indicate that Ross, who wrote a book (under the name Milan Ross) about how a plant-based diet helped him lose a stunning amount of weight, and Iris were going through divorce proceedings. Also a vegan chef and motivational speaker, Ross was interviewed on "Good Morning Arizona" on Jan. 29, 2017 as part of a live segment about the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival.
Court documents show that Ross is being held without bail because this is a capital offense, which means prosecutors may ask for the death penalty.
"This loss of life has once again served as a reminder that domestic violence is one of the most widespread and dangerous challenges facing our community today," Councilwoman Kate Gallego of District 8 said in a statement released Tuesday. "We must come together to increase state and local supports devoted to victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is preventable and has no place in our neighborhoods.”
Ross is due back in court for a status conference on Jan. 3 followed by a preliminary hearing on Jan. 5.
Iris' family is taking donations via this GoFundMe page.
On Wednesday, her employer, St. Joseph's Outpatient Surgery Center, sent Arizona's Family this statement: “We are heartbroken by the loss of this beloved executive and outstanding leader and we are deeply saddened by the loss of her two young children. Iris was a fabulous person with a huge heart and we are honored to have had her as part of our family.”
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