Shooter gets 99 years

November 2, 2013

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Officer Zac Anderson had nowhere to go when an “armed and dangerous” drug-crazed gunman began firing an AR-15 rifle at his Granbury Police Department vehicle in the early morning hours on Jan. 21.

Round after round – 19 bullets in all – destroyed the early-morning peace and quiet of that Spanish Trail neighborhood. Multiple bullets ripped through the door of the Tahoe, while others pierced the windshield.

Somehow, Anderson wasn’t wounded by the shower of bullets. He said he slumped down as low as possible, to the left of the steering wheel to make a smaller target. Amazingly, he went home with only a superficial “graze” mark on his inner right thigh.

Late Thursday morning, a jury in district court sentenced the suspect – Fallon Wayne Hart, a 36-year-old resident of Kerens – to 99 years in prison for firing at Anderson, police sergeant Michael Holly and Sheriff’s Office deputy Dustin Holden. Hart pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault on a public servant. He will be eligible for parole in about 30 years.

Hart also has other charges stemming from the incident, including a terrifying home invasion against an elderly husband and wife who testified, but those charges will remain on hold for now. He was charged with aggravated robbery in connection with that. His other local charge, evading arrest/detention in a vehicle, was dismissed on Monday.

After Hart’s sentence was announced by Judge Ralph Walton, Anderson said he believes that he was being protected by something other than the Tahoe early that morning.

“I think it was definitely God watching over me. I shouldn’t have made it out of that vehicle,” said Anderson, who has been on the GPD force for 2-1/2 years.

Anderson, who is married and had a child on the way at the time, said his thoughts turned to his family as the bullets pummelled the vehicle – a situation Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry described in his opening statement Tuesday as “all hell” breaking loose.

Anderson said his thoughts during the attack were centered on “not knowing if you will see your family again. It was pretty scary.”

GPD Chief Mitch Galvan said the jury did a “fantastic” job and reached a “very just verdict,” and agreed with Anderson about the reason he avoided serious injury or death.

“It was only by the grace of God Zac wasn’t hit in that (Tahoe),” Galvan said. “The fact that none of those bullets made it into the driver’s compartment was him watching over Zac – there is no other way to explain it.”

The two senior citizens who lived around the corner from where Anderson’s vehicle was blasted by gunfire were awakened when they heard a kitchen window of their home being broken. They testified that Hart came into their bedroom armed with a rifle and held it to the 80-year-old man’s throat while demanding the keys to one of their vehicles.

The vehicle was found just a few houses down the street, after it had crashed through a fence into the backyard of another nearby home. The driver was gone, but the semi-automatic AR-15 was found. After an extensive search of a creek bed, and with help from a thermal imaging camera on a DPS helicopter, Hart was found and taken into custody about two hours later.

The incident began shortly after 3:30 a.m. when Holly noticed a Chrysler Concorde parked in a suspicious spot near a convenience store on South Morgan Street. After giving the identifying information for Hart, Holly was told by the dispatcher that Hart was wanted on a felony unlawful carrying of a weapon warrant out of Taylor County and considered armed and dangerous.

After Anderson and Holden arrived to back up Holly and Hart refused to get out of his car, he sped off and headed into the Spanish Trail subdivision. The vehicle was found at a dead end on Spanish Trail Drive, but testimony indicated that when Anderson pulled up in his Tahoe he quickly realized he was being ambushed in the dark from the passenger side.

Testimony indicated that after the home invasion, Hart drove away in a Nissan pickup he took from garage of the senior couple around the corner, then paused as he was driving by to fire two more times toward the officers, who were running toward that corner after they heard the screech of tires.

Investigators identified 21 spent cartridges, including the first 19 from a spot next to an opening in a fence just a few feet south of where Anderson’s Tahoe was parked.

District Attorney Rob Christian told the jury that Hart had never been convicted of a felony, but had “at least” 14 prior convictions in Texas for offenses that included assault, resisting arrest, drug charges, obstruction of justice and DWI, Christian said. His list of arrests also stretched outside the state, to Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana and Mississippi, Christian noted.

Testimony indicated that Hart was using cocaine and that his 22-year-old female companion that night was an admitted heroin user.

After Walton read the official sentence and Hart was asked if he had anything to say to the court, he turned to the gallery and offered apologies to the elderly couple and to the officers. He stated he was “under the influence of many different drugs” at the time of the shooting.

Christian, who had asked the seven-woman, five-man jury to assess life in prison, told them in his closing summary that “when you see his history, it is apparent that the system has let all of us down.”

After the sentencing, Christian said, “The jury verdict will ensure that our and other communities are safe from Fallon Hart probably forever. The verdict validates the dangerous work our peace officers do for us.”

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