Family members confirmed to the American-Statesman that a mother was pushing her 1-year-old baby in a stroller when she was shot and killed during Tuesday's double homicide at Shadywood Lane.
As of Wednesday morning, 34-year-old Shane James sat in the Travis County Jail, charged with two counts of capital murder and, police say, as the prime suspect in a multicounty wave of violence that left a total of six dead, and a bicyclist and two police officers recovering from gunshots.
Travis County records show Austin police booked James into the jail at 1:32 a.m. He is charged with two counts of capital murder and misdemeanor, with no other details provided.
James is suspected of killing two people whose bodies were found stuffed in a small room on Port Royal Street in eastern Bexar County, which public records show is his home address. Court records do not indicate that James has an attorney assigned to him.
Detectives are working to understand what took the suspect from the San Antonio area to an Austin high school, where the shootings started, and how he allegedly targeted Austin residents during an eight-hour span.
Officers were not aware the incidents were connected until after they arrested him, interim Austin Police Chief Robin Henderson said in a media briefing early Wednesday.
The series of homicides marks the sixth mass killing event in Texas and the 42nd in the U.S. this year, coming just two days after a mass shooting in Dallas that left three adults and a toddler dead, per The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database. A mass killing is the intentional murder of four or more victims, excluding the perpetrator.
President Joe Biden released a statement in regard to the shootings in Austin, Bexar County and Las Vegas, urging Republican members of Congress to join Democrats to ban assault rifles and pass other "common sense" gun laws.
"We must do more to prevent more families, and more communities like Austin, San Antonio, and Las Vegas, from being ripped apart by gun violence," Biden's statement said.
Series of Austin shootings began at high school
The Austin Police Department received the first call at 10:40 a.m. that a sergeant with the Austin Independent School District police force had been shot.
At about noon, officers responded to the double homicide of Sabrina Rahman, 24, and Emmanuel Pop Ba, 32, in the 7300 block of Shadywood Drive in South Austin.
At nearly 5 p.m., police received a 911 call that a male cyclist had been shot at 5701 W. Slaughter Lane. He suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, Henderson said.
Almost two hours later, police received a 911 call about a burglary in progress in the 5300 block of Austral Loop, Henderson said. Officers arrived minutes later and found the suspect in the backyard. Henderson said the suspect shot at the responding officer, who fired back.
Henderson said the suspect shot multiple times at the officer, who then moved to cover. The officer suffered multiple injuries, which Henderson described as not life-threatening. She added the officer remained in stable condition.
The suspect fled the scene in a vehicle, and police pursued him until he crashed at the intersection of Texas 45 and RM 1826, Henderson said. Police arrested the suspect then — more than eight hours after the first shooting in Austin.
Officers checked the house where the firefight occurred and found two people dead inside, Henderson said.
Henderson did not name the victims.
She said the incident was captured on body-worn camera by police, including by the officer — a 12-year veteran with the Police Department — who exchanged gunfire with the suspect. The footage will be released within 10 business days, she said.
Henderson did not take questions from media during the briefing because of the "complexity" of the situation, according to Police Department spokesperson Anna Sabana.
Additional charges against James are "pending," Henderson said. She added that he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest charging him with assault causing injury to a family member.
Shane James possibly connected to double homicide in Bexar County
A “grisly” double homicide in eastern Bexar County is being investigated in connection with the shootings in Austin, according to Salazar.
A man and a woman in their 50s were found dead inside a small room in a residence at 6403 Port Royal St. in Bexar County. Salazar said officials believe the man and the woman were killed before the Austin shootings.
Salazar identified the victims as Shane Matthew James Sr., 56, and Phyllis James, 55, the parents of the suspect. Salazar said they were killed between 10 p.m. and the morning of Dec. 5.
The Austin Police Department had communicated to Bexar County officials Tuesday night that the suspect in the Austin shooting rampage had connections to the residence on Port Royal Street.
In January 2022, when James lived with his parents in eastern Bexar County, Bexar County deputies arrested James on suspicion assault against his father, mother and a sibling, according to county records, charging him on three counts of misdemeanor assault against a family member.
Salazar said James was released from jail in March 2022 and cut off his ankle monitor the next day, which was a violation of the terms of his probation.
James was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from February 2013 to August 2015. He had no deployments and separated from service Aug. 17, 2015, said Army spokesperson Bryce S. Dubee. His last rank was first lieutenant.
James did not serve for the entirety of his contract term. The circumstances of his departure are unclear. Dubee declined to disclose that information, citing Army policy on privacy considerations.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said a "domestic incident of some sort" led to James' discharge from the Army, adding that the sheriff's office was still working through those details.
James for a time lived in the Fort Worth-Dallas metroplex, public records show. In 2017, Fort Worth police arrested James — then living in Mansfield, where he held an insurance agent license — on suspicion of criminal trespassing at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, according to a police report.
Neighbors of victims reflect on the violence
At 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, three candles and a bouquet of flowers were left near the sidewalk in front of a house on Shadywood Drive in Austin, the street where two people were killed several hours earlier.
Several residents in the Austral Loop area described how they had sheltered in place and communicated with their neighbors as the violence there unfolded.
Cilla Parkinson, who lives a few houses from where the shooting occurred, said she and her son got quiet and turned off the lights Wednesday evening. She heard choppers circling overhead and sirens growing louder. Neighbors were texting that they heard gunshots close by.
"We all were like, shut it down, get inside," Parkinson said.
President Joe Biden releases statement, urges gun control laws pass
Biden urged members of Congress to pass a ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines, along with enacting other "common sense" gun laws such as red flag checks, in the wake of the shootings in Austin, Bexar County and Las Vegas. At least three people were killed in a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Wednesday.
Biden's statement said federal law enforcement is helping with the investigations in Texas.
"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," Biden's statement said.
Austin police explain why alerts weren't sent during shootings
After Tuesday's string of killings and shootings, many members of the public asked why police did not send out emergency alerts.
Investigators began to consider that the high school and South Austin shootings were connected, but by that time, the final killings on Austral Loop took place, the Austin Police Department said in a press release Wednesday.
"An important thing to note, these incidents did not take place in one specific area of Austin, and the initial evidence we had did not show any similarities," the statement read. "The Austin Police Department takes the safety of our community seriously, but we must do our due diligence to ensure the information we share is done in a timely and accurate manner."
Police said an active shooter alert, which was established by state law, was not sent out to residents because Tuesday's incidents were "not an active shooting event."
"This was a series of events which took place in several different locations across the city with various or unknown motives and no specific commonality," the statement said. "It is not common practice for APD, or any other law enforcement agency, to issue any sort of alert for every shooting that happens in their jurisdiction with an unidentified shooter."
The Austin Police Department said a "Blue Alert," sent when a law enforcement officer is in danger or has been killed, was not issued because the alerts require "some sort of actionable intelligence" and that "merely sharing that an officer was shot does not give the community anything to 'look out for' or action items to take to be safe."
Staff writers Jesus Vidales and Bayliss Wagner contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Austin shooting suspect ID'd; 6 dead, 2 officers injured in killing spree