Sheriff: Texas man killed parents, 4 others in trail of violence from San Antonio to Austin

Dec 6, 2023, 4:15 AM | Updated: 3:58 pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man killed his parents and four others and wounded two police officers in a daylong trail of violence stretching from San Antonio to Austin, authorities said Wednesday.

Shane James, 34, of San Antonio, was charged with two counts of capital murder after separate attacks in Austin and San Antonio that began Tuesday morning and ended with James crashing his car that evening during a police pursuit.

James has a history of mental health problems and a prior arrest on charges of assaulting family members, authorities said.

His parents, Phyllis James, 55, and Shane James Sr. 56, were found dead in their home in the San Antonio area, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference. Four more people were found dead in two homes in Austin, more than 80 miles (130 kilometers) away, officials said.

The Austin victims were not immediately identified. James would be charged with murder or capital murder in his parents’ deaths as well, Salazar said.

A cyclist in Austin also was shot and wounded, and two police officers were recovering from gunshots, including one who was shot in the leg outside of a high school, Austin interim Police Chief Robin Henderson said.

Henderson said it was unclear what, if any, relationship the man had to the victims in the Austin area.

Online jail records did not indicate whether James has an attorney and several people listed as his relatives in public records did not immediately respond to phone messages Wednesday.

James is a former U.S. Army infantry officer who served from February 2013 to August 2015, according to Lt. Col. Ruth Castro, Army spokesperson. He had no deployments and his last rank was first lieutenant.

James was arrested in January 2022 on charges of misdemeanor assault of his parents and a sibling and taken to jail. Two weeks later, the family told a victim advocates liaison that he had mental health problems and asked that he be released from jail, Salazar said.

James cut off his ankle monitor the day after he was released, prompting a misdemeanor probation violation warrant, Salazar said. Cutting off an ankle monitor has since been upgraded to a felony.

Deputies went to the parents’ house in August when James was reported to be naked in the yard and behaving strangely. They went into the home but did not arrest James because he had barricaded himself in a bedroom, Salazar said. Deputies are limited in their use of forced entry on a misdemeanor warrant, the sheriff said.

The deputies told the father to call them when James came out and they would come back to arrest him, but the father never called, Salazar added.

“It’s always possible we could have done more, had they been able to safely put hands on him,” Salazar said. “They were making every effort to avoid a violent confrontation with an unarmed man. That is a no-win situation for them.”

Austin police said authorities did not determine the attacks there were connected until the final one at a home, which happened more than eight hours after a school police officer was shot and wounded in a high school parking lot on the other side of the city.

James’ parents were found dead after his arrest. Deputies who went to their residence saw water coming out of the home and forced their way inside, Salazar said. He said the deaths appeared to have occurred before the shootings in Austin.

“This occurred, and then the suspect drove to Austin and did what he did there,” Salazar said.

In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would “impose the full weight of law on this criminal for his despicable crimes.”

“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,” Abbott said.

The attacks were the country’s 42nd mass killings this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. At least 217 people have died this year in those killings, which are defined as incidents in which four or more people have died within a 24-hour period, not including the killer — the same definition used by the FBI.

A timeline provided by authorities revealed the wide ground the suspect allegedly covered between the attacks.

Henderson said the Austin school district police officer was shot in the leg about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday outside Northeast Early College High School. Then, around noon, police who responded to a home after getting calls about gunshots found two people with signs of trauma. Police say one was dead and the other died at a hospital.

Daniel Moyer, who lives in the Austin neighborhood, said the area is typically peaceful and he felt shaken Wednesday. The neighborhood in south Austin is more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) miles from the high school where the officer was shot.

“It could have been me and my wife,” Moyer said.

Another shooting happened shortly before 5 p.m., when a male cyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries. About two hours later, police responded to a call of a burglary in progress at another home and found two people dead there. Henderson did not say how the four people in Austin died.

Henderson said that during the call at the last residence, an Austin police officer saw a man in the backyard. The man shot and wounded the officer who returned fire and was taken to a hospital. The officer was subsequently listed in stable condition.

Police said the man, who was not hit, drove away and police chased him. The suspect crashed at about 7:15 p.m. at a highway intersection and was taken into custody. The man had a gun, Henderson said.

She said the officer who was shot and the other officers were wearing body cameras and the video would be released within 10 business days.

___ Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Lolita Baldor in Washington; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; and AP photographer Eric Gay in San Antonio contributed to this report.

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Sheriff: Texas man killed parents, 4 others in trail of violence from San Antonio to Austin