After a series of violent incidents resulted in the death of four people and left three injured, Austinities want to know why no public alerts were sent out during the spree that lasted over eight hours on Dec. 5.

In an official statement from the Austin Police Department, officials explained the incident was “not an active shooting event,” so it did not result in the use of Texas House Bill 103, or the Texas Active Shooter Alert System.

“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,” APD officials said in a statement.

The FBI defines an active shooter as one or more individuals actively attempting to kill people in a populated area.

What happened

The first incident in Austin occurred at around 10:43 a.m. at Northeast Early College High School, when Austin ISD Police Sgt. Val Barnes requested backup after being shot in the leg by the suspect in the school’s parking lot. Shortly after, the school was placed under a lockdown, as previously reported by Community Impact.

Barnes is recovering at home, AISD officials said, and no students were harmed in the event.

The public did not receive any alerts of an active shooter after the suspect left the scene at NECHS the morning of Dec. 5. Media were briefed near the scene at about 2:30 p.m. by AISD Police Chief Wayne Sneed, who confirmed at that time no arrests had been made.

AISD police were still gathering leads and did not have an accurate description of the suspect to share to the media at that time, a spokesperson for AISD told Community Impact in an email. In addition, Barnes’ body camera was not on for the duration of the incident.

A Blue Alert, a public alert that is issued when a member of law enforcement is harmed, was not shared with the community as there was no specific suspect or vehicle information to share with the public, APD officials said.

“Since this incident has occurred, we have already had meetings with Sally Hernandez with Travis County Sheriff's Office, also with Chief Sneed, on working with collaborating on how, if there is [an alert] to put out, which is the appropriate entity at what time,” said Robin Henderson, Austin Police Department interim chief, at a press conference Dec. 12.
Police taped off a scene at Northeast Early College High School on Dec. 5 as students were evacuated. (Elle Bent/Community Impact)
What residents should know

The second incident in Austin occurred at around 11:59 a.m., when Austin 911 Communications received multiple calls for help at 7300 Shadywood Drive, where a double homicide occurred, Henderson said.

At this point, Austin Police did not believe the two incidents were connected, APD officials said.

The third incident occurred at 4:47 p.m., when a male cyclist was shot at 5701 W. Slaughter Lane, Austin, and sustained non-life-threatening injuries, Henderson said.

The fourth incident occurred at about 6:48 p.m., when Austin 911 received a call about a burglary in progress that resulted in a double homicide at the 5300 block of Austral Loop. A responding officer arrived at the scene and was shot at by the suspect, who fled the scene in a vehicle that crashed around 7:14 p.m., Henderson said. It was here the suspect was taken into custody by Austin police, and the department officially believed that the same suspect was tied to each event.

The suspect is believed to have begun the spree at a home in east Bexar County, in which the two deceased victims are believed to be the parents of the suspect, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

What they're saying

“Our hearts are with the six victims and their families as well as the two officers who were injured in the line of duty,” Mayor Kirk Watson said in a statement to Community Impact. “I’m grateful for the quick response from our APD officers and other first responders, and thank them for their bravery in the apprehension of the suspect. This is an ongoing investigation, and I urge folks to be patient as the facts of the case emerge about this senseless tragedy.”

What’s next

The suspect, Shane James, was apprehended by APD the evening of Dec. 5 and booked into a Travis County jail in the early morning hours of Dec. 6. James is charged with four counts of capital murder, two counts of aggravated assault against a public servant and one count of aggravated assault.