AUSTIN — An Austin police officer who confronted a suspected gunman Friday morning in the city used one hand to fire a gun at the suspect while using the other hand to hold on to horses, Austin police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters. The officer, assigned to the mounted patrol unit, was putting the horses away for the night when he heard gunshots nearby and responded by shooting at the suspect, Acevedo said. The suspect is dead, but police don’t know whether he died of a self-inflicted wound or the police officer shot him, Acevedo said.
Gunfire shattered the early morning silence in Texas’ capital Friday, with bullets hitting police headquarters and other downtown buildings. Officers noticed the gunman was near a possible explosive device and wearing a suspicious vest.
The 911 calls about shots in Austin began coming in around 2:25 a.m. Friday, Assistant Chief Raul Munguia of the Austin police told reporters.
At least three buildings — which police tweeted “an active shooter (was) targeting” — were caught up in it all. A police officer standing outside one of them, police headquarters, saw the gunman and shot him, Munguia said.
The suspect was downed next to a vehicle, inside which police “noticed what appeared to be an improvised explosive device,” the assistant chief said.
So officers pulled the gunman across the street, presumably for his own safety should the IED explode. It was then that police noticed he “was wearing some type of vest,” and they backed away from him as well, Munguia said.
“We believe the suspect is deceased, but given the nature of the (potential) improvised devices … we are using extreme safety for the personnel in dealing with this particular situation,” he added.
Video from CNN affiliates KXAN and KEYE showed the flashing lights of a large number of police cars and at least one ambulance lighting up the predawn sky in downtown Austin. A bomb squad robot moved in between the cars.
Officers blocked traffic in several areas, including barring all vehicles on a stretch of Interstate 35 for about two hours.
No police officers were injured in the incident. Munguia said that no one besides the suspect was struck.
The shooting prompted the evacuation of police headquarters, and authorities are looking into what other nearby buildings — including the Mexican Consulate and a federal courthouse — might have been hit.
Munguia said that police were also investigating where the gunman lived, in an area north of the crime scene.
“We’re going to be checking that particular residence to make sure that we don’t have any explosive devices there,” he said, “so we can make sure that the residents of that particular area are also safe.”