Police report to Devine council on Aug. 3 firearm incident at city hall

By Anton Riecher

Devine Police plans to train city hall staff on how to react to an active shooter following an Aug. 3 incident involving a young man armed with a rifle that began in the city hall parking lot, police lieutenant Chris Andrews told the city council.

The incident occurred on one of the rare occasions that no police officer was on duty at city hall, he reported at the council’s Aug. 15 meeting.

“Typically, on a morning shift like that, we have overlap with the two (shifts),” Andrews said. “This time we didn’t have anyone in the office. We had two (officers) that were out and two that were able to respond in minutes.”

The incident involved a young man and his mother traveling from Atascosa, TX, to Mexico via Highway 132.

“At some point the mother and son had a heated exchange of words,” Andrews said. “She pulled into the (Devine) city hall parking lot where he promptly got out carrying a single-shot 22 rifle. He then proceeded to walk around the building.”

Later the young man with the rifle was spotted on Hayden and Bowman streets. He was then seen crossing an open field behind the QT convenience store, Andrews said.

“Within minutes of the call we had a huge saturation of law enforcement,” he said. “We had DPS that I’ve never seen before that showed up. We had several county units show up.”

At this point only an explanation was being sought, Andrews said. Texas is an open-carry state with the only provision being that a handgun requires a holster.

“It’s not against the law to walk around with a rifle, unfortunately,” Andrews said. “However, because of the argument we just wanted to make sure he was in the right frame of mind to be carrying a rifle around town.”

Law enforcement caught up with the suspect later that day outside the city limits.

“The sheriff’s office located him and he did go to the hospital for medical reasons to be evaluated,” Andrews said.

No shots were ever fired, he said. Also, the incident never extended to the local Wal-Mart as reported by some media.

“I’ve been asked numerous times about the shooting,” Andrews said. “The first thing that Channel 5 asked me was about the mass shooting at Wal-Mart.”

Unfortunately, Andrews said police did encounter “some participation by local citizens” that arrived at the Wal-Mart looking for the reported shooter.

“That was interesting for a minute,” Andrews said.

Mayor Butch Cook told Andrews that several council members were concerned that no police officer was stationed at the city hall when the incident occurred.

“It just seems that due to the nature of the world these days, not to mention sometimes you get angry customers that come to city hall about things like utility bills … the thing to do is always make sure we have an officer at city hall. Is that possible?”

Andrews said that while predominately an officer is on hand at city hall it is not possible to guarantee that an officer be present.

“It just worked out that it didn’t happen that day,” Andrews said.

In future, the police plan to coordinate better with interim city administrator Dora Rodriguez and the sheriff’s office “to get people where they needed to go,” he said. Also, the police department’s on-staff active shooter instructor will train with the city staff to be better prepared if such an incident occurs again.

District 5 Council Member Debbie Randall asked if the police could make better use of the I-INFO online system already in place to aid in the response and recovery from emergencies and major disasters. Andrews said the system was not put into use until after police brought the situation under control.

“We were out looking for the person as opposed to waiting to type up what happened,” Andrews said. “We can coordinate that a little better.”

District 2 Council Member Michael Hernandez suggested that firearms training similar to the Guardian program for school security might better protect city employees.