06/18/2004

Two Grand Praire, Texas Officers Shot, One Killed

Officer Down: Sgt. Gregory Hunter - [Grand Prairie, Texas]

By Jason Trahan and Stephanie Sandoval, The Dallas Morning News

Two Grand Prairie, Texas police officers were shot early Friday and tactical officers and negotiators were involved in a long standoff in a Wal-Mart parking lot with a man in a van who they suspect is the shooter.

Sgt. Gregory Hunter was taken to Arlington Medical Center, where he died at 12:20 p.m. He was a 20-year veteran and the first black officer in Grand Prairie, officials said.

Officer Bruce Seix was airlifted to Methodist Central following the shooting. He was listed in critical condition Friday afternoon.

"The van is surrounded by tactical officers," said Detective John Brimmer.

A three-man negotiating team was at the scene.

"Our tactical negotiators have made numerous attempts to communicate in both English and Spanish with the individual or individuals inside the van," said Det. Brimmer. "We have had no response."

Since noon, officers had been adressing the suspect over a public address system:

"Let us know that you are willing to communicate by honking your horn," an officer said. "We’re concerned for your safety. You will not be harmed … We’re here with medical attention if you are hurt."

About 1 p.m., glass could be heard breaking, and it was believed to be a van window. About 2:24 p.m. police set off seven flash bang grenades and inserted tear gas into the van. Smoke came from inside the van, but there appeared to be no changes.

Police officers with guns drawn were crouched behind patrol cars and two fire trucks near the blue camper-style van. At least six patrol cars were at the scene. One patrol car, with three of its doors open and lights flashing, was directly behind the bullet-riddled van.

"There is one suspect inside the van," Det. Brimmer said.

The incident began about 8:44 a.m. when an officer went to the store, at Great Southwest Parkway and Interstate 20, to check on a blue van that had been reportedly sitting in the parking lot all night with the engine running, police said.

The officer called for backup, and about this time a suspect who had apparently been inside the van shot both officers who had arrived on the scene.

Sherice Jenkins said she and her daughter were chatting with a friend in front of Wal-Mart when they heard five booms in rapid succession about 9:30 a.m. They immediately knew they were gunshots.

She looked over to the source of the shots and saw an officer with his pistol drawn moving from the side of the blue van to the front, firing into the windshield. She said it appeared that the officer then ran back to the side of his patrol car.

"When we heard the shots, my daughter ran up and grabbed my hand and tried to pull me back into the store," she said. "I was like, wow, someone’s hurt or dead."

A Wal-Mart employee said the original call asking police to investigate came after an employee heard strange noise from inside the van.

"I was sitting the car talking to my mother on the cell phone, then all the cops were coming from every direction and surrounded them from every direction and were pulling their guns out," said Lynne White, who sat in her car for about 45 minutes after the standoff began before going into the Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart officials are trained for lock-down situations such as bomb threats or tornadoes and enacted those procedures, an employee said.

"At first when we were told to go in, I was scared," said Destiny Glover, about age 9. "There wasn’t really anyone to play with in there."

She said she felt much better when food was served. Some customers dug into their own groceries, already paid for.

Customers were asked to remain in the back of the store, and several sat around in patio chairs, hanging out and watching the situation outside on TVs in the electronics section.

"A lot of us were gathered around the TV set watching the news," said Destiny’s mother, Janet Glover, a probation officer for Dallas County.

About noon, people who had parked their cars beside or behind the Wal-Mart were allowed to begin leaving. Ms. Jenkins’ car was parked near the van, so she and her daughter set off to walk home in the sticky heat.

Carl Pool and his wife, Tricia, of Austin were in the area for a golf tournament sponsored by his company, Richmond Oil & Gas. They pulled up in his new black, white and tan RV in the Wal-Mart parking lot about 9 p.m. Thursday.

When his sister met them at the RV to go to dinner, they noticed the blue van had pulled up close to their motor home, about 54 feet away. Mr. Pool said his sister noticed two men around the car.

The Pools slept in their motor home for the first time last night, and Mr. Pool said his wife heard a noise outside about 4 a.m. "I was awakened with a banging on the bus because I thought I was just hearing things and I was kind of groggy," Ms. Pool said.

This morning, her husband went to play golf at 7 a.m. and she again heard someone tampering with the motor home’s door. After shouting out, the person went away, Mr. Pool said.

"Something was going on that scared her," Mr. Pool said. "When you’re out there by yourself and there’s someone out there invading your space you’re kinda like, ‘What are you doing.’"

When she was leaving at 8:15 a.m. she said the van not there. The Pools were not at the scene when the standoff began.

"We were gone when it happened, thank God," he said. "If they shot two officers, they could have robbed or shot at us."

As the standoff continued Friday afternoon, a Buffalo Wild Wings employee gave free water to members of the media and other onlookers. About seven people in street clothes watched the scene from the roof of the Wal-Mart.

Some highway traffic was diverted, with the service road blocked off between Great Southwest Parkway and Carrier Parkway. Interstate 20 was closed between Spur 408 in Dallas and Highway 360 on the Arlington-Grand Prairie line.

A second medical evacuation helicopter was standing by in the parking lot.

The Associated Press and WFAA-TV reporter Janet St. James contributed information to this report.
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