Dequirea Royal, 24, was pronounced dead at 2:51 p.m. Friday of a single gunshot wound to the head, Calhoun County Assistant Coroner Shane Adrian said.
Anniston investigative Sgt. Josh Doggrell identified the case as an open homicide investigation. There were no suspects in custody around 5:30 p.m. Friday, but Doggrell said police were interviewing witnesses and following up on all leads.
Operators with 911 received a call about the shooting around 1:30 p.m. Officers responded to the scene at Building No. 20 in the west Anniston apartment complex, where they found Royal dead.
Doggrell declined to release whether Royal was found alone in the apartment or the number of witnesses that had been interviewed so far Friday afternoon.
At the time of her death, Royal was a sergeant in the Alabama National Guard, according to Capt. Andrew Richards, a public affairs officer at the Guard’s Montgomery headquarters. She was assigned to the 167th Forward Support Company in Oxford, where she worked as a cook.
At 3:30 p.m., hundreds of people were crowded around the apartment building. Some were crying, others talking in hushed voices.
Two women near the yellow crime-scene tape set up around the building perimeter identified themselves as Royal's cousins.
Lesley Swink, one of those women, told a reporter that Royal had lived at Constantine Homes for a few months but was planning to deploy somewhere this summer. Another woman at the scene was dressed in an Army uniform. She identified herself as Sgt. O’Neal but declined to give her first name.
Royal spent the past two years serving with her in Oxford, O’Neal said, and was set to deploy to Afghanistan in June.
Swink described her cousin as “a fun-loving person” who had no enemies. Mary Williams, another cousin, said Royal enjoyed spending time with her family and making people laugh.
Thursday night, Swink said, Royal had gone shopping for her sister, who is pregnant.
“She was so excited to get all that baby stuff,” Swink said. “She loved her family; she didn’t hang in the streets.”
Her cousins can’t believe that she is dead: They had made plans to go to Atlanta for Easter weekend and eat at Dave and Buster’s restaurant.
Swink began to tear up as she talked about Royal.
“She loved me,” Swink said.
By 4 p.m. Friday, the crowd at the crime scene had begun to clear out. Several police officers, the yellow crime tape and a crime scene van remained.
Investigators said late this afternoon they were still in the information-gathering stage and declined to comment on any specific circumstances surrounding Royal’s death.
“It’s too early to get into that right now,” Doggrell said.
Star Staff Writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_star.
Metro Editor Ben Cunningham contributed to this report.