Levelland Police Chief Albert Garcia was joined by Hockley County Sheriff Ray Scifres, Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe and Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell Thursday evening for a press conference on the standoff situation in the area of 10th Street and Avenue J, which is still ongoing.
Chief Garcia provided background information on a traffic stop conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety earlier in the day, after which the trooper observed an older model pick-up truck that seemed to be attempting to start a confrontation with police. Levelland police officers and Hockley County Sheriff’s deputies attempted to locate the vehicle at that time and were unsuccessful.
Chief Garcia said around 1:12 p.m., the police department received a call from a concerned citizen regarding a subject “acting strange,” and holding a large gun. When police arrived on scene, they observed the older model pick-up truck that was described in the earlier incident.
He said at that time, officers were unsure of whether the weapon was real or not, and took precautions. Officers did not immediately approach the house and began negotiations through the Levelland Police Department. A negotiator was able to make contact with the subject, who was hostile and did not want to speak with officers. Garcia said shortly after that encounter, the subject opened fire on Levelland police officers out the front door of the residence.
Garcia said Levelland police officers returned fire but it did not appear that they struck the suspect at that time. The Levelland Police Department contacted the Hockley County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, as well as the Lubbock County SWAT team. The SWAT team arrived approximately 20 minutes later and began setting up command. Garcia said not long thereafter, the suspect again opened fire on officers and additional officers were injured.
“This is still an ongoing and fluid situation,” Garcia said.
Kelly Rowe, Lubbock County Sheriff, said the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Department did lose a member of their squad Thursday, SWAT Commander Sergeant Josh Bartlett.
“It’s tough for me to put into a lot of words regarding the loss,” Rowe said. “We will be mourning with his family and family through the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, and all law enforcement.”
Rowe reiterated what Chief Garcia said, about the situation being ongoing and fluid.
“This is still an active scene, we are working on plans to bring this to a successful conclusion,” Rowe said.
Rowe went on to say in total, five officers were injured Thursday, including the fatal shooting of Sgt. Bartlett.
Chief Garcia reported there were a multitude of agencies that responded Thursday, including local, state and federal agencies. Among those are the Hockley County Sheriff’s Department, Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, Lubbock SWAT, Texas DPS and Texas Rangers, FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, and Secret Service. He also said the Texas Rangers will be taking over the investigation upon a resolution to the active situation.
“These agencies are here with us right now, supporting our agency, supporting our community and doing everything they can to make sure this community is safe,” Garcia said. “We want the community to understand how violent and volatile this situation is and remain out of the immediate area while we try to bring it to a resolve.”
Garcia said that as far as anyone else being in the house with the suspect, at this time the information indicates the suspect is alone inside the residence. He also said officers did their best to evacuate the neighborhood, and for residents who refused to leave, they were advised to go to the back of their residence and stay down in case additional shots were fired. He also reported that no civilians had been injured.
Garcia reported one Levelland police officer, Sergeant Shawn Wilson, remains in stable but critical condition, and was taken to University Medical Center in Lubbock where he went into immediate surgery. Garcia said he has since been released from surgery, but remains in stable but critical condition.
Rowe reported the other three officers who were injured are with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office and said most have been treated and released.