Former Army infantry officer ID'd as suspect in Texas shooting spree

The suspect, Shane James, was charged with capital murder, authorities said.

December 7, 2023, 1:22 PM

A 34-year-old former Army infantry officer was identified Wednesday morning as the suspect in a central Texas shooting rampage that unfolded over hours in two large cities and left his parents and four other people dead, and three people injured, including two police officers, authorities said.

Austin police investigators "strongly believe" the suspect, Shane James, is connected to the violent string of incidents in Austin that unfolded over a span of eight hours on Tuesday. James was being held Wednesday without bail on a charge of capital murder, authorities said, adding that more charges were pending.

Interim Police Chief Robin Henderson said the chain of events occurred at four different locations in the state capital on Tuesday and one near San Antonio. She said the deadly crime spree began in Austin Tuesday morning with the shooting of an Austin Independent School District police officer near Northeast Early College High School, prompting a lockdown of the school.

Booking photo for Shane James, 34 years of age, released by the Austin Police Department, Dec. 6, 2023.
Austin Police Department

"Based on the information obtained over the course of these investigations, we strongly believe one suspect is responsible for all of the incidents," Henderson said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Investigators are working to determine any relationship James may have had with the people who were shot in Austin and what prompted the violence.

The two victims found dead at a home near San Antonio Tuesday night were James' parents, 56-year-old Shane James Sr. and 55-year-old Phyllis James, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Trails of Texas Homicides
ABC News

Henderson said investigators didn't connect the series of episodes until the final one occurred around 7 p.m. Tuesday, when an Austin police officer was wounded in a gunfight with the suspect in the backyard of a home, where two people were later found dead inside.

Henderson said the wounded officer, a 12-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, responded to the residence in southwest Austin after a 911 caller reported a burglary in progress at the location.

The officer went to the backyard of the home on Austral Loop and encountered the suspect, who immediately opened fire, hitting the officer multiple times, Henderson said. She said the officer, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, returned fire but missed the assailant, who ran to a vehicle and fled the scene.

PHOTO: Police investigate a crime scene in Austin, Texas, after a series of shootings in Austin and near San Antonio on  Dec. 5, 2023.
Police investigate a crime scene in Austin, Texas, after a series of shootings in Austin and near San Antonio on Dec. 5, 2023.

Other officers chased the suspect, who crashed at an intersection and was taken into custody, Henderson said.

The names of the two victims killed in the Austral Loop shooting have not been released.

Following James' arrest, Austin police contacted the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and informed them the suspect had a connection to a residence near San Antonio, about 80 miles southwest of Austin, Sheriff Salazar said.

Salazar said deputies who were sent to the house to do a welfare check on the occupants found a "grisly" scene and the bodies of the suspect's parents, who were shot multiple times with a large-caliber weapon and "wedged inside a very small room."

Salazar said investigators believe the parents were killed sometime between 10 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m. on Tuesday, before the suspect went to Austin to continue his alleged killing rampage. He said James' parents were last heard from around 10 p.m. on Monday.

Salazar also said James was involved in several previous incidents where deputies were called to the family's house to intervene. He said James, whom he described as a former member of the military, struggled with mental health issues for years.

Army spokesman Bryce Dubee confirmed to ABC News that James served as an infantry officer from February 2013 to August 2015. His records, according to Dubee, showed James had no deployments and separated from the service on Aug. 17, 2015, with the rank of first lieutenant.

Salazar said that on Jan. 6, 2022, James was arrested on three misdemeanor counts stemming from an alleged assault on his parents and a sibling.

"The family stated that James does not belong in jail, that he has mental health issues," Salazar said.

He said James was released from jail on March 7, 2022, after a judge reduced his bond from $500 on each misdemeanor count to $100 on each account and relaxed restrictions on him from having no contact with his parents or siblings to having no threatening or harmful contact with them.

Salazar said that as part of James' release, he was required to wear an ankle monitoring device. He said a day after James was released from jail, he cut off his ankle monitoring device, prompting misdemeanor warrants to be issued for his arrest.

Salazar said the last time his deputies had contact with James was in August when they were called to the family's home again. He said James' father asked deputies to intervene, claiming his "son was naked, he was acting out, had a mental health episode and was upstairs in his bedroom."

He said deputies tried to talk James into coming out of his room but were limited by law in what they could do because James was only wanted at the time on misdemeanor warrants.

"They were making every effort to avoid a violent confrontation," Salazar said of his deputies, adding that at the time, James was unarmed and yelling derogatory comments at the deputies.

Salazar said that as deputies stood by, James' father partially forced open his son's bedroom door, which was blocked by a bed, and deputies could see James lying naked on a bed.

Unable to get James to come out of the room, the deputies left the house and asked the father to call them if he came out of the room, Salazar said. He said the father never called back.

"I wish we could have been able to get him into custody," Salazar said.

Salazar said James is expected to be charged in Bexar County with either murder or capital murder.

The series of shootings in Austin began at about 10:43 a.m. on Tuesday, when the school resource officer was shot in the leg, Austin Independent School District Police Chief Wayne Sneed said.

Officials work at a residence near San Antonio in Bexar County, Texas, where two people were discovered fatally shot on Dec. 5, 2023.

About two hours later, a man and a woman were found shot inside a home near Shadywood Drive on Austin's south side, said Austin police Sgt. Destiny Silva. She said officers responded to the home after multiple 911 callers reported gunshots coming from the residence. Austin police identified the victims found at the house as 32-year-old Emmanuel Pop Ba, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and 24-year-old Sabrina Rahman, who died after being taken to a hospital.

Silva said one of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene and the other died after being taken to a hospital.

At about 5 p.m. Tuesday, a 39-year-old cyclist called 911 and reported he'd been shot and injured near the 5700 block of West Slaughter Lane in Austin, police said.

Roughly two hours later, the gunfight between the veteran police officer and the suspect erupted on Austral Loop that preceded the suspect's arrest.

Henderson said the gunfight between the suspect and the veteran police officer was captured on the cop's body camera, and the footage will be made public within 10 business days in keeping with Austin Police Department policy.

As police were investigating the Texas rampage, an unrelated shooting broke out at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in which three staff and faculty members at the school were killed. The suspect, who law enforcement sources identified to ABC News as 67-year-old Anthony Polito, died in a gunfight with police. Polito had applied for a college professorship at UNLV, but was not hired, sources said.

President Joe Biden released a statement responding to the Texas and Nevada shootings, saying he and first lady, Jill Biden, "join citizens across our nation in praying for the families of our fallen, and for those who were injured during these latest acts of senseless violence."

"Federal law enforcement officials are on the ground working with state and local law enforcement in both states and I have directed that all necessary support be provided to assist in the investigations and support these communities," Biden said. "This year alone, our nation has experienced more than 600 mass shootings, and approximately 40,000 deaths due to gun violence. This is not normal, and we can never let it become normal. For all the action we have taken since I’ve been president, the epidemic of gun violence we face demands that we do even more."

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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