The gunman targeting multiple downtown buildings including the Austin Police Department is dead from an exchange of gunfire with police early Friday morning. NBC reported that a bomb disposal unit was deployed to examine a suspicious device located near police headquarters after being evacuated. As reported by NBC affiliate Erin Cargile, the Mexican Consulate, the federal courthouse, and the Austin Police Department was targeted in the shooting spree.
Restaurant server, Jesse Van Wallene, in an interview with NBC that he was fifteen feet away from where the shooter was when he and a companion were at a stop light. Wallene, 29, observed the shooter was holding a large firearm. He described the subject as being in riot gear with a bullet-proof vest and a helmet with a visor over the face. No apparent markings were on the gear according to Wallene.
According to Wallene’s account, the now dead gunman targeted a building opposite the Austin Police Department with gunfire, oblivious to onlookers. He then peppered the adjacent buildings including APD prompting an evacuation. The gunman appeared “very focused on firing at the building” that had no lights on at the time of the incident. Wallene’s passenger urged that they leave the area and ran the red light.
APD Assistant Chief Raul Munguia announced to reporters that at 2:22 am local time, a 911 call was received reporting gunfire. Shortly after, an officer outside the station noticed the suspect fire a weapon. There was an exchange of gunfire and the suspect fled with unknown injuries. The area was cordoned off while law enforcement searched for the suspect.
In his statement to reporters, Munguia said that the gunman was seen in a white vehicle but as law enforcement approached, there appeared to be some sort of explosive device in the vehicle. Officers dragged the gunman from the vehicle and noticed the modified vest on the gunman and backed off before establishing a security perimeter around the scene.
Nightclub manager, Hans Paap, woke up to the sound of gunfire. As he approached the third story window of his apartment close to the police station he observed a third round of gunfire and said “you could see the muzzle flashes.” He noted seeing police officers approach a white vehicle parked in the wrong direction on East 8th street but then retreat.
The shooting took place on the eastern end of downtown Austin’s entertainment district. Regularly a hotspot for club-goers, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the area was fortunately quiet. All northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 35, the main highway through Austin, were shut down and residents were warned to stay off the streets. By 6 am local time, officers were still not able to get near the subject. Numerous emergency services vehicles were present at the scene.
USA Today reported that bomb squad officers were on the scene and as of this morning were scouring the gunman’s vehicle for any other improvised explosive devices. Units were sent to the suspect’s home in North Austin to check for more potential explosives at the residence. The identity of the dead gunman who targeted the Austin Police Department has not been released. No police officers were injured and no other casualties were reported. The southbound frontage road is still closed from Eighth and Eleventh streets as police investigate. Police have also closed down Seventh and Eighth streets between I-35 and Red River Street until further notice.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Bill Dickinson – Flickr License