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Off-duty officer killed near club

November 27, 2001

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Off-duty officer killed near club

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Suspect in earlier slaying charged in fatal shooting in NW Dallas

The Dallas Morning News

A man suspected in a slaying two weeks ago was arrested and charged with fatally shooting an off-duty Dallas police officer and wounding another officer outside a dance club Sunday, authorities said.

The two officers were working security at Club DMX in northwest Dallas when a fight erupted at 2:45 a.m., resulting in a gunbattle in the parking lot in which more than a dozen shots were exchanged, said Dallas homicide Sgt. Joe DeCorte.

Officer Christopher Kevin James, 34, was flown to Parkland hospital, where he later died.

The second officer, Clarence D. Lockett, 39, was treated at Parkland and released early Sunday.

Dallas Police Chief Terrell Bolton said the shooting death was particularly difficult to deal with, because preliminary information indicated the officers were trying to help Licho Escamilla, 19, who is accused of shooting them.

"Once the facts come out, I think they will show that this was a senseless murder of a police officer and the attempt on another one," Chief Bolton said. "I think it echoes the everyday danger that exists for them."

Police said Mr. Escamilla was wanted in connection with the Nov. 8 slaying of Michael Torres, a 26-year-old West Dallas man who was found wounded near his home in the 4000 block of Hammerly Drive. A murder warrant for Mr. Escamilla was issued Nov. 19.

He is charged with capital murder in connection with Officer James' death.

Although Officer James was off-duty when the shooting occurred, police said, he would be recognized as killed in the line of duty because he defending the public.

He is believed to be the 73rd Dallas officer killed in the line of duty, officials said.

Officer James was wearing his Dallas police uniform when he died, Chief Bolton said.

"Anytime you lose an officer, it's never good. You have to remember that these are the people we send out every day to protect us," Chief Bolton said

Officers James and Lockett were attempting to break up a scuffle outside the club at 10733 Spangler Road between the suspect and several people when Officer James either fell or was knocked to the ground, according to a preliminary police investigation.

"They were physically trying to break it up, and either he [Mr. Escamilla] didn't realize who the officers were or he didn't want to quit fighting," Sgt. DeCorte said.

One witness told police that Mr. Escamilla pulled a gun out and began firing randomly.

Officer James was struck in his holster at one point and Officer Lockett was struck in the hand, Sgt. DeCorte said. Neither of the officers had time to pull out their service revolvers. As two other Dallas officers, Sgt. Mark King and Senior Cpl. Lance Crawford, approached him, Mr. Escamilla fired one to three shots at Officer James.

Mr. Escamilla then exchanged gunfire with Sgt. King and Senior Cpl. Crawford before he ran out of the parking lot and headed south on Spangler Road, Sgt. DeCorte said.

About one block from the club, Mr. Escamilla attempted to steal a vehicle, but two people tackled him, police said. He escaped and began shooting again, police said. Sgt. King and Senior Cpl. Crawford returned fire before finally capturing Mr. Escamilla with the help of some witnesses, Sgt. DeCorte said.

Mr. Escamilla fired more than 12 shots, scattering bullets throughout the parking lot and pockmarking several cars, police said. He had no bullets left in his gun when he was detained, police said.

Mr. Escamilla, who was also treated for a gunshot wound at Parkland, remained in custody at Lew Sterrett Justice Center on Sunday. No bail had been set Sunday evening.

Sgt. King, Senior Cpl. Crawford, and Officer Lockett were placed on administrative leave, which is routine in police-related shootings.

Sgt. King, 40, and Officer James had each been involved in previous shootings, police said.

In April, Sgt. King shot a man while working an off-duty job at a northwest Dallas grocery store. He shot a man who pointed a gun at him while he investigated a shooting near the store.

In January, Officer James fatally shot a man who pointed his gun at him and his partner in the Love Field area. Police said the man was pointing his gun at Officer James' partner, Kevin D. Janse, before turning the gun at Officer James.

At the time of the January shooting, Officer James had received 42 commendations and one sustained complaint. Details of the complaint were not available Sunday.

Officers in the northwest substation credited Officer James with saving his partner's life in the January incident.

Officer James had been with the Dallas Police Department for more than six years and was called Kevin or K.J. by friends and family.

Officer James, a newlywed, is survived by his wife, Lori, and an 8-year-old daughter, Shelby, from a previous marriage.

The couple married at the end of October, said Senior Cpl. Eddie Crawford, the vice president of the Dallas Police Association and a fellow officer in the northwest division.

"He had just got his wedding pictures back and was showing them to the other guy that was shot," he said while fighting back tears.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Prestonwood Baptist Church, 6801 W. Park Blvd.

Officer James was described as a hard worker who enjoyed his job.

"He was working last night for a friend who couldn't make it. So, he called K.J. knowing he would work it. It was a last-minute thing," Senior Cpl. Crawford said. "That's the kind of person he was. He'd fill in and do it."

Officer James had been on the Dallas Police Association's board of directors for more than a year.

"That provided him the opportunity to help officers. That typified the kind of person he was. He always went out of his way to help people," said Senior Cpl. Glenn White, the association's president.

Officer James had a friendly demeanor on the job, Officer Nick Novello said. "He was extremely hard working and well thought of," Officer Novello said. "He always had a big grin on his face. He talked to people, listened, got the job done, and did it with passion. It's devastating."

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