By Paige Hewitt
The Houston Chronicle
WHARTON COUNTY, Texas — A Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden was fatally shot in Wharton County early Saturday after he and other officials chased and tried to apprehend a suspected illegal hunter, who was expected to be charged with capital murder.
Justin Hurst, of El Campo, who turned 34 the day he was killed, is survived by his wife, Amanda, and 4-month-old son, Kyle.
"He was a man of the finest caliber," said longtime friend Ed Weinheimer.
The Department of Public Safety said capital murder charges were expected to be filed late Saturday against 26-year-old James Freeman of Wharton County, who also was shot and is being held under guard at Oak Bend Hospital in Rosenberg, officials said. He was listed in stable condition.
The pursuit started late Friday night or early Saturday, when a second game warden saw Freeman on the side of the road and suspected he was hunting illegally. When the warden approached, Freeman fled in the car.
Hurst and officers with the Wharton County Sheriff's Office and the Texas DPS were called in as backup. After a lengthy pursuit, Freeman's car was stopped by DPS and he and officers exchanged "heavy fire," said DPS spokeswoman Lisa Block.
Freeman had a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, said the 100 Club, a civic organization that supports law enforcement officers and is providing $10,000 to the Hurst family.
Hurst was taken to Memorial Hermann-The Texas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Hurst was an avid hunter who volunteered with area hunting clubs, and was an active church member, Weinheimer said.
"We see this stuff on TV and don't think it will come into our house," Weinheimer said. "But it did."
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Texas game warden dies after being shot during chase