03/15/2012

Hostages in Texas courthouse shooting 'refused to be victims'

Workers trapped inside the building helped to disarm man and let SWAT officers inside

Associated Press

BEAUMONT, Texas — A defendant in a family dispute accused of fatally shooting an elderly woman as she tried to run inside a Texas courthouse is being held on $4 million bond.

Bartholomew Granger is accused of wounding three other people Wednesday, including his daughter and the daughter's mother. A bystander was also injured. The 41-year-old Granger was arraigned Thursday morning.

Granger is accused of grabbing a gun from his pickup truck outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont and opening fire. Authorities say that sparked a shootout that ended after Granger briefly took hostages in a nearby building.

Granger is charged with one count of murder. He was on trial this week in a separate criminal matter.

Beaumont is 80 miles east of Houston.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A defendant in a family dispute was being held without bail on a murder charge after police say he fatally shot an elderly woman as she tried to run inside a Texas courthouse, setting off a shootout with law enforcement officers that briefly became a hostage situation.

Bartholomew Granger, 41, was also accused of wounding three other people, including a daughter authorities said he ran over with a pickup truck while he tried to escape. He was being held at a jail after being treated at a hospital following his arrest.

The woman killed, Minnie Ray Seabolt, 79, of Deweyville, Texas, appeared to be an innocent bystander, Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods said. Granger's daughter remained hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said. The daughter's mother and the third person injured were treated at the hospital and released.

Granger was outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont on Wednesday before the continuation of his trial, grabbed a gun from his truck and began shooting, authorities said. The woman was fatally struck as she tried to run into the courthouse, while Granger's daughter and another bystander fell to the ground.

Several law enforcement officers returned fire as the courthouse about 80 miles east of Houston went on lockdown.

"It was crazy," said Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary. "He was shooting. Our guys were shooting."

Police say Granger was firing from his truck and then ran over his daughter as he drove away. He went about three blocks before abandoning his truck in the middle of the street then taking hostages in a nearby construction business, police said.

Once inside, Granger spoke by phone to police and told them he was wounded. He eventually surrendered and was taken to the hospital.

Granger's attorney, Rife Kimler, said Granger's trial had begun this week and his daughter, 20, had testified against him Tuesday afternoon. She had been scheduled to be cross-examined by Kimler on Wednesday afternoon, the attorney said.

Kimler said the ongoing case was emotional, but he thought the trial had been going reasonably well.

"I didn't have him on my list of dangerous ones," Kimler said of Granger. "I've been doing this 21 years, and the ones I think are dangerous are in a file in my head. He wasn't in that file."

In separate court filings, Granger hinted at the emotional strain of his ongoing court battle. Two years ago, Granger sued the cities of Beaumont and Houston, their police departments and the two surrounding counties. Granger and three other family members sought compensation for the mental anguish caused by the allegations.

Granger complained in one filing of an "unprovoked brutal attack" against his family.

"This insurrection has caused heavy financial burden and hardship upon our family and extreme psychological damage to the Granger family," he said. "We may never (trust) the police again."

A federal judge dismissed the civil suit in December.

A pickup truck riddled with at least a dozen bullet holes remained in the middle of the street Wednesday afternoon.

James Gibson, one of the owners of Richard Construction, said about 50 to 60 employees were inside when the gunman entered. An assault rifle believed to belong to the gunman remained in the building, Gibson said.

Authorities said workers trapped inside the building helped to disarm Granger and let SWAT team officers inside.

"We understand hostages took advantage of the individual when he was semiconscious," Singletary said. "They refused to be victims."

Judge Larry Gist, whose office is across the street from the main courthouse building, said there was "pandemonium" as law enforcement flooded the scene as soon as the shots rang out.

Ricky Gandy said he went to the window of his office at LJA Engineering, which overlooks the parking lot next to the Beaumont Police department, after hearing a "pop, pop, pop."

He saw police shooting at a pickup truck as it came out of the parking lot, but the driver "never really got in a hurry."

"Once it started, it was kind of like the Fourth of July," Gandy added. "Several shots, I imagine, I'm guessing at least 30 shots all together."

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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