The close-knit community in France, is mourning the tragic shooting death of 11-year-old Solaine Thornton and praying for the recovery of her parents. The devastating attack on the family during an outdoor barbecue has left the small town in anguish, and investigators have revealed details about the suspect and his motives.
Dirk Raats, 70, was a neighbor of the Thorntons and had been in a years-long dispute with them over their inherited garden. The situation boiled over Saturday night, when investigators believe Raats opened fire on the family from less than 30 feet away, shooting Solaine on a swing set and then her parents.
The animosity between the Raats and Thorntons began with the latter cutting down a large oak tree whose branches crossed their neighbor’s property. Though Raats and his wife tried to sue for damages, they ultimately lost the case. The couple then attempted unsuccessfully to resolve the conflict at a 2019 town hall.
Further complicating the tragedy is that Raats was allegedly under the influence of drugs at the time of the shooting. Police discovered several illegal firearms, including a 22-caliber rifle and a large amount of cannabis, at the suspects’ house.
However, Solaine’s 8-year-old sister Celeste had the presence of mind to run from the scene, seeking help from family friends Pierre and Frederique Leroy. The couple saw Rachel holding her bleeding daughter, screaming, and Adrian shouting from the pain of his injuries.
The senseless shooting of Solaine Thornton and the severe injuries of her parents is an unfathomable tragedy for the small community. People are working to come to terms with the senseless act, honoring young Solaine’s memory and praying for a speedy recovery for her parents.