Austn TX April 8 2012 A man charged with fatally shooting an Austin police officer had talked of robbing a store and told investigators he intentionally shot the officer because he was trying to stop him from fleeing, according to court documents released late Friday.
A four-page arrest affidavit for Brandon Montgomery Daniel, 24, provided new details on a day that brought the city’s first line-of-duty death of an officer in more than seven years.
Senior police officer Jaime Padron, a 40-year-old former Marine and father of 10-year-old and 6-year-old daughters and who had been with the department for about three years, died just inside a North Austin Wal-Mart after an encounter with Daniel, authorities said.
Daniel, 24, opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol about 2:30 a.m., officials said.
After Daniel was taken into custody, he said, “I killed a cop,” while being walked through the police parking garage, according to the affidavit, which police made public shortly before 10 p.m. Friday.
A call to 911 from store employee had been the kind that officers working the overnight patrol shift considered routine: A man inside the store off Interstate 35 near Parmer Lane appeared drunk, and employees wanted police to check on him.
But the burst of violence minutes later left the Police Department and city grieving.
In what he described as acts of heroism, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said several Wal-Mart employees, whom he declined to identify, then tackled Daniel, wrestling him to the ground and pinning him to the floor as nearby officers heard Padron’s cry for help on police radios and raced to him.
Acevedo said Daniel fired another shot after the employees had overpowered him.
“Even in this tragedy, I am heartened by two brave souls who took action,” said Acevedo, who became tearful during a late-afternoon news conference Friday.
Police have charged Daniel with capital murder, and he remained in the Travis County Jail late Friday. Officials said most of the incident — including the struggle between Daniel and Padron — was captured on numerous security cameras inside the store, providing critical evidence in the case.
A software engineer, Daniel lived in an apartment on West Parmer Lane, a few miles from the Wal-Mart.
Daniel, who moved to Austin from Colorado, was charged with drunken driving in February after an officer said he was swerving and ran a stop sign on a North Austin street. Daniel’s roommate told the American-Statesman that he left the apartment Thursday night after saying he was going to find some Xanax, a prescription anti-anxiety medication.
In two rare back-to-back confrontations between officers and suspects, the shooting came eight hours after an officer fatally shot a man after a foot chase in East Austin. Police emphasized that the incidents were not related, but even so, city officials called for Austin residents to remain calm.
“Obviously, we have had two very tragic incidents involving loss of life,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “My sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to families of both of those who lost their lives.”
Leffingwell added: “Austin is still a very safe city. Nothing has changed about that, and we will continue to work to make sure this is a very safe city for everybody who lives here.”
Numerous Central Texas government and law enforcement officials gathered at the shooting scene before dawn Friday, hugging one another, expressing condolences and offering support to officers who worked with Padron.
“It’s a tough day for all of us,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “We lost a family member. But with all other situations, we will get through this as well.”
Across the city Friday, flags were lowered to half-staff, and police and other first responders began wearing black mourning ribbons across their badges in honor of Padron within hours of the shooting.
Padron’s death also prompted an immediate outpouring of sympathy and support at Austin police headquarters. The department received calls from more than 100 residents and others from across the state and nation, including Gov. Rick Perry, who called Acevedo.
“When the people that you are paid to keep safe turn around and support you and try to keep you safe, it makes you realize that is why you became a police officer,” Assistant Police Chief Patti Robinson said.
The death was the first involving an Austin officer since October 2004, when officer Amy Donovan was struck and killed by a patrol car as she chased a suspect in a drug case on foot.
The last officer felled by a bullet was in May 2000, when Austin park police officer William Jones was shot and killed during a traffic stop near Zilker Park.
His assailant killed himself a few hours later as police closed in on him in the Houston suburb of Katy.
During a Friday’s afternoon news conference, Acevedo said that when Padron entered the store, loss prevention officers pointed out the suspect, later identified as Daniel. He attempted to flee, and when Padron pursued him, a struggle ensued, Acevedo said.
Both men fell to the ground, and Daniel pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired it at Padron. One bullet struck the officer’s body armor, but another struck him in the neck area, inflicting a mortal wound, Acevedo said.
Immediately, two Wal-Mart employees rushed Daniel and took him to the ground, Acevedo said. Daniel fired one shot at them but missed, he said. The employees were able to subdue Daniel until backup officers arrested him.
“We’ve seen video of members of the Wal-Mart team, after our officer was shot, immediately without hesitancy, taking action to take that suspect and detain him,” Acevedo said.
Detectives spoke to Dante Davis, Daniel’s roommate, who told them that the night before the shooting Daniel suggested they “hit a store,” the affidavit said. Davis thought that meant getting some food, but Daniel spoke as though he wanted to rob a convenience store, the affidavit said.
Davis said he warned his roommate about breaking the law, the affidavit said.
Daniel, who owns a motorcycle, responded, “Dude, I’ve gotten away with worse … than that. I run from the cops on my bike almost daily,” the document stated.
Officials said few shoppers were inside the store — which Acevedo said likely saved lives and prevented injuries — but the few who were in the area reported hearing the sound of shots.
Pflugerville resident Pedro Garcia and his roommate, Sapna Sharma, said they went grocery shopping about 1:30 a.m. and were in the back of the store when they heard a loud noise. They stayed inside, but as they were leaving, they said, more than a dozen officers swarmed in. They said it appeared as though someone was administering CPR on a victim.
Garcia said: “You’re at Wal-Mart. You think you’re safe.”
Michelle Pearson was on her way home from work and stopped at the store with a friend to buy milk and bread. She said she was in the parking lot, about to go inside, when she saw an officer walk to the front door and begin talking to a store employee.
Seconds later, “We heard a gunshot, but we didn’t know what it was,” she said. “It sounded like a firecracker or something.”
As she decided to leave the parking lot and pulled away, Pearson said, she could see through the front door of the store that an officer was on the floor.
“I just hope that people are praying for his family,” she said.
Acevedo became particularly tearful in discussing Padron’s daughters and the department’s efforts to help plan Padron’s funeral in coming days.
“Those little girls are going to have evidence when they grow up that their dad was a hero,” he said.