Officers likely saved lives in shootout

July 3, 2013

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Heroic acts by fast-acting members of law enforcement likely saved lives Friday when a shootout occurred by the bustling town square shortly before lunchtime, following a shooting at Oak Trail Shores (OTS) that left a deputy mortally wounded.

Officers – including Sheriff Roger Deeds – fired a steady hail of bullets at the armed suspect as civilians and city employees went diving for cover. They continued blasting even as a shout of “Officer down!” rang out when one of their own was felled by a bullet from Ricky Don McCommas’ assault rifle.

Granbury police officer Chad Davis collapsed in the melee from a bullet that ripped through his arm and out his back, while projectiles bounced off McCommas for what seemed like an eternity.

“It was like a movie,” said Lynn Park, who was in a car behind First National Bank directly across the street from the deadly confrontation. “They kept shooting and shooting and shooting – and he wouldn’t fall. Now I know why.”

She was referring to reports that surfaced later that McCommas was wearing body armor when he emerged from the van just yards from City Hall and began firing at Davis, Deeds, Lt. Johnny Rose, Lt. Lynn McDonald, Deputy Robert Moon and a state trooper whose identity Deeds said Monday he was unsure of.

Gary Farina, owner of the new Farina’s Winery & Cafe, said that he and two workers were examining a pallet of materials for the restaurant’s patio area and were only about 15 feet away when McCommas emerged from the van, made eye contact with him and began to raise his rifle.

“He looks at us. I mean, I make direct eye contact with him,” Farina said.

Suddenly, a cluster of law enforcement vehicles screeched to a stop and bullets began to fly. Farina said he was unsure who fired first – McCommas or the officers.

“It was pretty crazy,” he said, adding that he, the workers and a man who was doing power washing ran to the back far corner of the building. Farina’s is where the Clothes Horse and Dakota’s Kabin used to be.

“Stuff was whizzing through the crepe myrtles,” Farina said, referring to the landscaping in front of City Hall. “It went on for a while.”

McCommas, 49, had fled in a white van after allegedly shooting Deputy Lance McLean, who had responded to a disturbance call at OTS. McLean died Saturday morning at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

courage under fire

Outside Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth on Saturday, where Davis had just been taken from the Intensive Care Unit to a private room, Granbury Police Chief Mitch Galvan praised the courageous acts of his officer and the other law enforcement officials who took out the shooter before he could fire at civilians.

“It’s what all our guys are made of,” the chief said. “They don’t put their lives first when it comes to the public’s safety. Their duty is to protect the public.”

Davis was released from the hospital late Monday.

“He (Davis) knew that this guy was dangerous, and he knew what the possibilities were if the guy made it to the square. So he tries to initiate a stop way prior to making it there, and the guy wouldn’t stop,” Galvan recounted.

Davis was alone in the patrol car, Galvan said. However, two other law enforcement vehicles were pursuing McCommas, according to Deeds. One of the vehicles contained Deeds and McDonald, who were heading back to the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) from the east side of the county.

Deeds said that Deputy Mike Stafford, who had just arrived at the scene in OTS, radioed for an ambulance for McLean and gave a description of McCommas’ vehicle. The sheriff said he spotted the suspect’s vehicle “within 30 seconds after he put that out on the radio.”

The van was also spotted by Davis, who Galvan said was intentionally driving more slowly toward OTS than other police officers who were en route to the scene. Davis was driving slower because he was on the lookout for the van.

“It was not a high speed pursuit,” Deeds said. “The guy was just driving along, actually very slowly.”

“There was a Tahoe and a car, and I don’t know which one Chad was in,” he said. “He was beside the Tahoe when he was shot on the scene.”

Park said that she, her husband, John, and their daughter Pamela Hardwick might very well have been in the direct line of fire had they had not paused briefly after getting into their vehicle for Hardwick to make a phone call.

“I guess God was with us,” she said. “We might have been killed. It just so happened, we got on the phone and we didn’t leave right when we left the bank.”

Apparently, God was also with Galvan, Capt. Alan Hines and Sgt. Jeremy Bellew. The Police Department is housed within City Hall. The three ran out the municipal building’s main doors, not realizing that they might be running directly into the line of fire.

terror at city hall

In an odd coincidence, city employees, just a few weeks ago, participated in a day-long drill that involved a shooter scenario and the firing of blanks to simulate real gunfire.

“We were very prepared,” City Manager Wayne McKethan said Monday. “Everybody knew what to do.”

Employees had been instructed to lock themselves into offices, he said. Some of the offices were in the line of fire, so employees had to get down on the floor. One of the bullets went through a second floor window, McKethan stated.

Galvan said that, at first, no one knew what was going on. Bullets ricocheting off glass can sound like someone pounding on a window or glass door, he said, and not necessarily like gunfire.

“I guess my age caught up with me, because I was the last one out the door,” Galvan said. “It was probably a good thing that we ran out there after everything had stopped because the door to City Hall was in the line of fire. We probably would have been walking into a lot of bullets if the gunfire had still been going off.”

The police chief said that the suspect’s van blocked their view of the law enforcement vehicles.

Upstairs, in the farthest corner of the building, McKethan didn’t realize that the loud noise he was hearing was bullets raining down from a death match on Houston Street.

“It sounded to me like someone was banging on the roof,” he said. “I told my assistant to lock the door behind me. I went to the stairway to look.”

Outside, someone told Galvan that Davis, one of the city’s 38 sworn officers, had been hit. An air ambulance was summoned to speed him to a Fort Worth hospital.

“I could tell that it was an upper extremity wound, but I didn’t know what the result of it was because the paramedics told me that the exit wound was in his back,” he said. “Any time a bullet travels through a cavity, a million different things can happen. A bullet can take a million different paths.”

As officers were roping off the area around City Hall with yellow crime scene tape, McKethan gathered department heads and made the decision to send home the city’s shaken employees and to close City Hall for the rest of the day.

Galvan said that Texas Rangers are reviewing dash cam videos of the confrontation. He hinted that the extent of Davis’ heroism may not yet be known.

“What he did was extremely heroic,” Galvan said. “I can’t tell you how good of a job that man did.”

officers down

Authorities said McCommas made a widow of Katy McLean, and left the couple’s two special needs children without a father.

He traumatized many, including Davis’ wife, Cari, and their daughter. Galvan declined to give any information on the girl’s name or age, stating that he is abiding by the wishes of Cari Davis.

Galvan said that Davis faces a painful recovery process. On Saturday morning, Davis woke up at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth with a swollen knee, he said. Tests revealed three pieces of shrapnel.

“It’s going to be a painful road for him, and he’s not looking forward to it,” the chief said.

County government, especially the Sheriff’s Office, is in mourning over the death of McLean. County Judge Darrell Cockerham announced Monday morning that county offices would be closed on Tuesday (yesterday) for McLean’s funeral in Hico.

Deeds said that a local car dealership, Van Griffith Kia, is giving a van to McLean’s family, and community donations will be used to equip the vehicle with a wheelchair lift. Donations also will help defray funeral expenses.

Contributions are being accepted at the First National Bank in Hico, as well as all three branches of Community Bank in Hood County. Those locations are: 500 S. Morgan St., 1343 N. Plaza Dr. and 3301 Fall Creek Highway in Acton.

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