Six people were found dead and three injured after a string of homicides and shootings unfolded across two Texas communities Tuesday, and a suspect was taken into custody and charged with capital murder, police said.
Four people were killed and two police officers were shot in Austin on Tuesday, police said. The suspect is also believed to have killed his parents in the San Antonio area, according to authorities.
Police identified the suspect Wednesday as Shane James Jr., and the two victims in San Antonio were identified as his parents, Shane James Sr., 56, and Phyllis James, 55.
James, 34, is suspected of killing his parents with a "large caliber handgun" sometime between 10 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. They were not found until Tuesday evening.
"While we don't know exactly where during that time frame that these victims were killed, we're asking the public that if you live in that neighborhood, please make it a point to check your doorbell camera video," he said.
In Austin, the Austin Police Department identified the deceased as Emmanuel Pop Ba and Sabrina Rahman, as well as two other people who have not been identified by police. They were killed at different locations.
Interim Austin Police Chief Robin Henderson told reporters early Wednesday that the man was arrested after he crashed his vehicle while speeding away from a shootout with a police officer that left them with “multiple gunshot wounds.”
She said the “series of violent incidents” began in the morning “and extended into the evening.”
The Travis County District Attorney's Office said it is in communication with law enforcement.
"Our hearts break for the shooting victims, injured officers, their families, and our communities impacted by yesterday's senseless and tragic gun violence," José Garza's office said in a statement.
It is expected that the suspect will remain in custody pending trial, according to Garza.
Shootings across Texas
The first call came in at around 10:43 a.m. local time, when police were told that a sergeant with the Austin Independent School District police force had been shot, Henderson said.
Wayne Sneed, the school district’s police chief, told NBC affiliate KXAN of Austin that the officer had been shot in the leg but was expected to be released from the hospital.
Shortly after that incident, Henderson said, police received multiple calls about a double homicide in Austin.
Pop Ba was found dead in the shooting in the 7300 block of Shadywood Drive, and Rahman was rushed to a hospital and later died, police said. Their connection to the suspect, if any, was not immediately clear.
Later, Henderson said, a male cyclist was shot, although he suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
At around 6:54 p.m., Henderson said, the “male suspect immediately opened fire” on an Austin police officer responding to a burglary call after he was found in the backyard of the residence.
The officer returned fire but suffered “multiple gunshot wounds,” she said, adding that they were taken to a local hospital in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries.
The suspect sped away from the scene and was arrested after he crashed his vehicle, she said.
“Later, officers went inside the residence to check the welfare of those inside,” Henderson said. “Two apparent victims of the suspect were located inside with fatal injuries and pronounced deceased on scene.”
Their identifies had not been released by Austin police as of Wednesday evening.
Austin police called the Bexar County Sheriff's Office at around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, after James was already in custody in Austin, and asked deputies to check a residence associated with him, Salazar, the Bexar County sheriff, said.
Deputies saw water coming out of the home from under the door and decided to force entry, he said.
There, he said, they found the bodies believed to be the suspect's parents in a small room.
Who is the suspect?
James was an Army infantry officer from February 2013 to August 2015, an Army spokesperson said. He had no deployments, and his last rank was first lieutenant, the spokesperson said.
Officials at the news conference acknowledged his history of mental illness but said they did not know about other accusations against him, including from when he was in the military, and don’t believe they would have had access to that information at the time of his arrest.
“We know now that there was a domestic violence incident of some sort in the military,” Salazar said, adding, “I don’t know to what extent, I just know it had something to do with why he left the military.”
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office said James had been arrested in January 2022 on three charges of assault, bodily injury of a family member. Court documents state that he allegedly pushed his parents.
Salazar said Wednesday afternoon the charges against the suspect stemming from the arrest were misdemeanors. Conditions of his bond initially included no contact with the alleged victims, Salazar said, but when authorities spoke to James' family, they indicated he had mental health issues and did not belong in jail. The bond conditions were changed to the suspect's not having threatening contact with the alleged victims, Salazar said.
The suspect spent months in jail and was released in March 2022, but he promptly cut off his ankle monitor on March 8, Salazar said, which prompted authorities to obtain an arrest warrant for violating bond on the assault charges.
In August, deputies were called to the James residence because of a "mental health episode," Salazar said.
Once they were there, James' father said his son was naked and in the midst of a mental health crisis. James locked himself in an upstairs bedroom. But because he was sought by law enforcement only for misdemeanor charges, deputies allowed his father to ram the door and partially crack it open. They then began to speak to James, who was unclothed and yelling slurs at deputies, Salazar said.
The deputies tried to de-escalate the situation, Salazar said, and while James was insulting deputies, he did not threaten them. The deputies were not able to get into the room themselves or persuade James to leave it.
Deputies then said they would stay in the area and would come back in case he left the bedroom so they could arrest him, Salazar said.
"By all indications, we never got another call," Salazar said, explaining that deputies were hesitant to possibly get physical with an unarmed naked man over misdemeanor charges.
'There was no crystal ball'
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who spoke at Wednesday afternoon's media briefing alongside Salazar, said deputies and prosecutors had limited information that James was capable of extreme violence.
"There was no crystal ball," Gonzales said. "There was nothing to indicate that this individual was going to commit a murder, and certainly not one of this seriousness, where you have multiple victims and you have a capital murder that we have today."
Salazar and Gonzales indicated they expected James to be charged with murder but hoped for capital murder.
Gov. Greg Abbott thanked law enforcement and said that "violence will never be tolerated."
"Texans grieve for the loved ones of the six Texans who were murdered by a hardened criminal who must never see the light of day again," he said in a statement. "The State of Texas will provide all resources necessary to impose the full weight of law on this criminal for his despicable crimes."