By Erik Ortiz - NBC News
New court documents detail how the suspect in a series of shootings this week in Texas allegedly broke into a home where a woman and her "special needs" daughter would be killed, and how he subsequently tried to escape from prison before being quickly subdued.
Shane James, 34, was being held in a room at the Travis County Jail on Wednesday after being arrested Tuesday night when he "shoved" a corrections officer who was leaving. He was taken into custody in the hallway and "subdued" by deputies who "had to use force," according to a probable cause affidavit and a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff's Office.
The jail is a "secure, multi-story facility, and James would not have been able to escape the floor he was on, let alone the building," spokeswoman Kristen Dark said in an email Friday.
Authorities were still investigating Friday why James, a former U.S. Army officer, carried out a series of attacks that left six people dead and three others wounded near San Antonio and in Austin, and whether it could have been prevented since there was an active warrant for his arrest for an incident in early 2022.
James faces charges prior to his indictment of capital murder of several people, and capital murder by terroristic threat and other felonies, which carry the death penalty. He has a hearing scheduled for Jan. 18.
A newly released probable cause affidavit describes one of the attacks in Austin that occurred Tuesday before 7:00 p.m. local time.
A man watching a live feed from his home's video surveillance system called 911 to report that someone had broken into the residence located in the Austral Loop, in the southwest of the city. Detectives arrived at the scene and confronted James, who then fired multiple shots, striking a detective before stealing a car from the home and fleeing, according to the affidavit, which was obtained by NBC affiliate WOAI-TV in San Antonio.
A detective who later reviewed security footage of the incident said James could be seen breaking down a back door of the home while holding a gun, which was identified in the affidavit as an Inland Manufacturing 1911 A1 .45-caliber handgun.
[Texas shooting leaves at least six people dead, three injured and a suspect in custody]
Police also found two women inside the home with gunshot wounds, but they could not be revived and were pronounced dead at the scene at 7:30 p.m., according to the affidavit. Police identified them as 56-year-old Katherine Short and 30-year-old Lauren Short. The man who called 911 identified them as his wife and daughter, who has "special needs," according to court records.
Police and James were engaged in a chase at speeds reaching 90 mph (145 km/h), until James crashed the stolen Acura and was taken into custody, according to the affidavit, which also indicates that a gun and pistol magazines were found on him.
A search warrant obtained by WOAI-TV indicates Austin police are trying to obtain DNA samples from James in connection with the Austral Loop break-in.
The violent chain of events may have started sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference Wednesday.
James' parents, Phyllis and Shane James Sr., last spoke to family members before 10 p.m. on Monday, Salazar said. Their bodies were discovered Tuesday night at the family's home in the San Antonio area, after the attacks had already begun that day, he added.
It's unclear if they were killed Monday night or Tuesday.
An initial call in the series of attacks came in around 10:43 a.m. on Tuesday, when Austin police were informed that an Austin Independent School District police force sergeant had been shot.
The local high school closed its doors and the shooting sparked a search for the gunman.
The injured officer was identified Friday as Sgt. Val Barnes, a veteran school district officer. "I'm glad it was me and not any of our children," Barnes, who was wounded in the leg, said in a statement.
Then, just before noon Tuesday, police received multiple calls about a double homicide in South Austin. One of the victims, later identified as 32-year-old Emmanuel Pop Ba, was dead when officers arrived. The other victim, 24-year-old Sabrina Rahman, was taken to a hospital, where she died, Austin police said.
About five hours later, authorities received information from a bicyclist who had been shot, but that person suffered a non-life-threatening injury, law enforcement sources added.
Less than two hours later, a 911 call was received about a burglary at a home in the Austral Loop.
Authorities say they are continuing to track down the gun they believe was used in the attacks and could not immediately say how it was obtained. It's unclear what connection, if any, James had to the Austin victims.
Freedom under finesse in 2022
James was known to authorities in Bexar County, where his family has a home near San Antonio, and questions are mounting around his bail and his ability to stay out of jail despite arrest warrants issued against him since early 2022.
In January of that year, James was arrested on three misdemeanor counts of assault for allegedly shoving and scratching his parents and a brother at the family home, according to court documents.
The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a nonprofit that supports defendants in the state who can't afford their bail, said it helped rescue James in coordination with the Bexar County Public Defender's Office by posting a$300 bond. He also said he was last in contact with James in March.
"We want to make it clear that TOP has a thorough and rigorous screening process in place to evaluate individuals who are eligible for our bail program, with a focus on assisting with misdemeanors," the organization said in a statement this week. "James was deemed eligible based on our criteria at the time."
Following his release in March 2022 on the three misdemeanor counts of assault, James cut the monitor on his ankle, prompting authorities to obtain an arrest warrant for violating bail, officials said at Wednesday's news conference.
In August, deputies were called to James' residence due to a "mental health episode," said Salazar, the Bexar County sheriff. But deputies ultimately did not arrest him at the time, as he was apparently having a meltdown, and Salazar said deputies may have been hesitant to have physical contact with James, who was undressed, on misdemeanor charges.
Emergency personnel work at one of the scenes of a shooting in Austin and San Antonio, Texas.NBC News
Officials at the news conference acknowledged his history of mental health issues, but said they were unaware of any other allegations against him, including when he was in the military. They also indicated that they do not believe they would have had access to that information at the time of their arrest in 2022.
"We now know that there was some kind of domestic violence incident in the military," Salazar said, adding, "I don't know to what extent, I just know that it had something to do with why he left the military."
James was an Army infantry officer from February 2013 to August 2015, according to an Army spokesman. He was never sent anywhere, and his last rank was first lieutenant, the spokesman added.
The Texas Organizing Project, whose primary goal is to end mass incarceration that largely affects Black and Latino communities, said its decision to help James last year will be part of a broader review.
The organization "has worked with Bexar County officials to advocate for policies that balance the rights of defendants, community safety, and the cost to taxpayers of pretrial incarceration," Michelle Tremillo, the group's co-executive director, said in a statement Friday. "The pretrial evaluation, the judge's decision, and the actions of the district attorney's office and the public defender's office in this case were consistent with current best practices for low-level misdemeanors in the state of Texas."
The group has also endorsed progressive elected officials and, in 2020, supported the re-election campaign of Salazar, who that same year asked other elected officials to donate to the organization.
At this week's press conference, Salazar said he didn't think he had to reimburse any campaign support from the Texas Organizing Project.
"They did nothing wrong in helping this gentleman exercise his right to bail," he said. "I don't regret that no one supported me."