LA GRANGE, Texas – The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has identified the deputy shot attempting to apprehend a wanted felon in La Grange on Thursday night. He is 32-year-old CJ Lehmann, reported CBS Austin.
Sheriff Keith Korenek says Lehmann and another deputy were assisting La Grange Police Department in apprehending the suspect, who had just assaulted a La Grange police officer.
It was reported that Lehmann volunteered to take the lead in breaching the door since he was wearing body armor. In doing so, he took a shotgun blast to the face.
“Everybody has heavy hearts right now. It hit close to home,” said Lieutenant David Beyer.
Deputy Lehmann is still in critical condition, and CBS Austin has learned he has lost his left eye and may lose his right eye. Meantime, at the Carter Motel, the crime scene tape has come down.
Beyer says Lehmann has shown signs of improvement, and was able to talk Friday.
“They pulled the tubes out for him, and he was able to communicate. At that point, he told me, ‘Hey lieutenant, I’m doing good.’ I said, ‘Alright, CJ.’ And he said, ‘I’m coming back,’ and I said, ‘That sounds great.’ And then he told everybody don’t mess with his truck he’s coming back to get it,” Beyer said.
Dozens of bullet holes riddle the walls and windows of Unit 18 at the Carter Motel in La Grange. Law enforcement authorities were originally after a sex offender for failing to register. It was reportedly the same offender who opened fire Thursday.
La Grange Police Chief David Gilbreath was there right next to Deputy CJ Lehmann when he was shot. “When we went there to confront him to get him to come out he opened fire on us,” said Chief Gilbreath.
“This young deputy is committed, he’s from the area, he really has a big heart and he cares a lot,” he said.
It all started at the Dollar Store right around the corner, according to witness Jimmy Mash. “The guy … pulled a big old knife,” Mash recounted.
Mash was in line behind the suspect, who he recognized as a neighbor at the Carter Motel. “The guy he wouldn’t stop and he made it all the way back to his room,” he continued. “I was going back to my room and the officer was coming. I pointed and that particular one was the one that got shot,” Mash said.
Maulik Ejner has owned the Carter Motel for 22 years. He says the suspect lived in Unit 18 in the very back for 10 months. “He never bothered anybody, he was quiet, he come pay money on time on the rent,” Ejner said. “This is the first time in my history, and I think this is the first time happening in La Grange history too.”
Moreover, the town of La Grange is in shock as Deputy Lehmann lies in an Austin hospital after suffering the gunshot blast to the head.
“It’s never easy, especially seeing a deputy that’s so committed to his job,” said Chief Gilbreath.
As a result of the Lehmann’s family tragedy, the Austin Police Association is pitching in.
“We were able to provide food last night. We were able to get hotel rooms for the family,” said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
The 100 Club is also helping the family financially and collecting donations.
“They’re there for us in our worst days, and we want to turn around and be there for them on their worst day,” said Etta Moore, the Executive Director of The 100 Club of Central Texas.
Lehmann is a single father of three young daughters.
Beyer says his family needs the support from the community now, more than ever.
“We’re one big family here in Fayette County, and everybody’s pulled together.”
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has set up a collection for help Deputy Lehmann. If you want to help the single father of three daughters out, send a check to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Memorial and Benevolent Society. That’s Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, C/O FCSMBS, 1646 N. Jefferson Street, La Grange, TX 78945. Write “CJ” in the For section.