Had the bullet pierced the wall a foot lower, chances are Cari Spencer's daughter would be seriously wounded or even dead.
The 23-year-old was lying in bed with her husband late Friday night in the room they rent on a long-term basis at the Knights Inn when they were shaken by a crash that sounded like a door being kicked open, and then the unmistakable crack, crack, crack of gunfire.
A split-second later something smashed through their wall, sending a whizzing sound speeding past them. Then sudden disbelief.
"It came flying through the left side by me about where my ear is," the woman wrote in an email to her mother and passed on to the Star-Telegram.
"When I say it was a foot away from my head, I mean it literally,” she said.
The bullet ricocheted off another wall and became lodged.
Another bullet fired by the gunman hit a 19-year-old male, according to the initial incident report filed by police officers who were dispatched to the motel after 11 p.m. The condition of the victim and status of a suspect have not been released.
“At first we heard a very loud commotion as if someone busted through their door but we know the shooter was already inside the room,” the woman wrote.
Violent crime at the motel in the Las Vegas Trail area led Fort Worth city attorneys to file a lawsuit against Knights Inn owner Anil Patidar in December. If the city is successful in court, Knights Inn can be closed for one year.
When reached by phone Tuesday and questioned about the shooting, Patidar said: “I have no idea about anything about it. You can call the police department,” and then he hung up.
Patidar, a Fort Worth resident, was summoned to City Hall in October and given a last-chance warning by city attorneys and law enforcement officials to work with police to deter crime on the property.
When the city found little evidence of improvement two months later, it followed through with an abatement lawsuit. A month earlier, the city had filed one against Las Vegas Trail apartment complex Mira Monte Apartments.
After a New Year’s Day armed robbery at the Mira Monte complex, city attorneys filed a motion requesting a temporary injunction against it, which threatens potential jail time for the owner.
Fort Worth senior assistant attorney Chris Mosley said Friday’s shooting at Knights Inn serves as further rationale for the lawsuit, and could lead to further action.
“We’re looking at it right now with the police and trying to figure out what our next steps are going to be,” Mosley said.
This particular Knights Inn doesn’t serve so much as a traditional motel as it does a transitional housing unit in a neighborhood struggling with poverty, drugs and crime. The motel is typically filled to capacity by a mishmash of people either unable to afford or obtain a more permanent housing solution.
The young couple nearly struck by the stray bullet, Spencer said, are both meth addicts. They have made the decrepit Knights Inn their home for nearly a year.
The woman, raised in Burleson and Roanoke, and her husband, a self-employed appliance repairman trying to build a steady business, continue to stay in the same room with the bullet still lodged in the wall. She asked for her identity not to be revealed for fear of retaliation. Her husband did not respond to messages.
“[The police] tried to get the bullet out but couldn't because it’s too lodged in the wall. Then they left our room at about 1:30 - 2 a.m.,” she wrote in the email. “Everybody kind of went on as if nothing really happened because that sort of behavior and violence is not new, unfortunately.”
Spencer, who lives in Denton, said she called the Knights Inn multiple times on Saturday, but the woman who answered the phone claimed no knowledge of a shooting near her daughter's room, and continually told her that the owner, Patidar, was not available.
Spencer said her daughter told her the motel offered no apology, let alone a refund for that night’s stay. They were still expected to pay their $40-a-night rate.
“There’s no refunds, no exceptions,” Spencer said. “That’s blood money, they’re exploiting these people.”
The motel has been the city’s most egregious code violator for more than a decade and a constant nuisance to police. While independently owned, Knights Inn is a Wyndham Hotel Group brand. In a statement issued in October, Wyndham said it is addressing the issues with the hotel’s owner, although no action has been taken.
City Councilman Brian Byrd, who has made cleaning up the Las Vegas Trail area a central item on his agenda, has favored the city's tough approach.
“The documented crimes which have occurred on this property are reprehensible,” Byrd said when the city filed its lawsuit. “The filing of this lawsuit is the city’s attempt to force the owners to clean up this property in order to provide a safe place for customers.”
A foot lower, and the bullet that whizzed through the Knights Inn ground-floor room Friday night might have had a tragic ending.
“I get on my knees every day and thank the Lord that bullet didn’t hit my daughter,” Spencer said.