The man charged with capital murder in connection with a shooting that left two dead and 14 injured near Greenville, Texas, last month has been released after further investigation.
At Gonzales’ first court appearance, sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Jeff Haines said investigators were “100%, without a doubt” certain Gonzales was the shooter.
The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office requested Brandon Gonzales be released “due to the lack of cooperation from witnesses and discovery of exculpatory evidence during the course of the investigation,” according to a statement released by the sheriff’s office. It also asked that the district attorney’s office take no action on the man’s case.
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said the probable cause arrest was based on credible information and statements given to law enforcement.
“Law enforcement has diligently investigated this case and in the days since the arrest, additional information has come to light,” Meeks said in the statement.
The arrest affidavit quoted the confidential informant as saying Gonzales was seen in line to enter the hall and participating in a dice game with a large crowd in a restroom. The witness said that seconds after Gonzales emerged from the restroom, he opened fire on the hall.
Killed in the shooting were Kevin Berry Jr. of Dallas and Byron Craven Jr. of Arlington, both 23.
Gonzales, 23, was charged October 28 and was being held on $1 million bond, Meeks had said. Authorities previously said he was responsible for a shooting October 27 at an off-campus homecoming party.
Speaking to reporters after his release Tuesday night, Gonzales said things will never be the same because of how “the sheriff’s office made me look.”
“When I heard … people … coming through when I was in my cell (saying) ‘that’s the shooter,’ it killed me cause that’s not my image, that’s not who I am, that’s not who I’ve ever been,” Gonzales said. “It messed me up.”
Of his release,“I was about to go to sleep, and then a guard came in and told me to get all my things,” Gonzales said. “I was like, ‘I’m going home?'”
Meeks said authorities will continue to investigate the shooting.
“We know there are many people who were present at the party venue … who have not spoken with law enforcement. Though individuals may have reasons for not wishing to come forward, we ask that they do so and tell law enforcement what you saw and heard that night no matter how small the information may be,” the sheriff said. “They may not know the importance of any information they have.”
Police have struggled to find the person responsible for the shooting. Their efforts were complicated by witnesses’ reticence, Meeks had said.
“It appalls me that, as many folks that were there, (they) have not been able to give us a better description of this shooter,” the sheriff told reporters.
The owner of the venue where the shooting took place said that a Texas A&M University-Commerce fraternity had rented the space.
Initial investigations suggested the shooter was not a partygoer but that he likely got to the party before deputies arrived in response to an unrelated complaint, the sheriff had said.
Police interviewed at least 20 witnesses, and “none of them have given us a good description of the shooter or who they think he may be,” Meeks had said at the time. There are no surveillance cameras at the venue, either, he said.
Activist Jeff Hood, who organized a weekend protest of the arrest, said Gonzales should never have been locked up.
“Ultimately, this case illustrates the incompetence of law enforcement in Hunt County,” Hood said Tuesday night. “The spirit of justice has arrived, and Brandon Gonzales is now free.”
The “incompetence” he is referring to is called an investigation. When you have 750 people in a small venue, many of whom were in costume, and a witness comes forward with information that is deemed to be credible, you act.
The minute that exculpatory evidence came to light, the Sheriff asked the DA to take no action and had Gonzales released.
Incompetence, Mr. Hood, would have been sitting on the evidence and letting Gonzales sit in jail while they flushed it out and looked for another suspect.
We brought you this story shortly after the incident took place.
But this wasn’t the only deadly incident around Halloween.
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Five people were killed and several more were injured at a Halloween party shooting at a Northern California home rented by a woman who falsely claimed she wanted the Airbnb so her asthmatic family members could escape wildfire smoke, officials and a person with knowledge of the transaction said Friday.
Gunshots were reported at about 10:45 p.m. PDT Thursday at the large home in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Orinda where more than 100 people had gathered, police said. The home had been rented on Airbnb by a woman who told the owner her dozen family members needed a place with fresh air, the person with knowledge of the transaction told The Associated Press.
A one-night rental on Halloween was suspicious enough that before agreeing to rent the home, the owner reminded the renter that no parties were allowed, said the person, who was not authorized to publicly disclose the information and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The renter, whose name and hometown have not been disclosed, told the homeowner that her family members had asthma and needed a place with fresh air. A giant wildfire burning in Sonoma County about 60 miles north of Orinda earlier in the week forced tens of thousands to evacuate and fouled the air over a wide area.
Orinda Police Chief David Cook said at a news conference there is no ongoing threat to the public.
“We don’t have any reason to believe that they stayed in the area,” Cook said of the suspect or suspects. “We don’t have any reason to believe that they were from Orinda.”
Cook did not address a possible motive or how many people are believed to be involved in the attack.
Another Halloween party, in a rural area east of Salt Lake City, also ended in violence and left two men dead. A 22-year-old man was fatally stabbed, and a 23-year-old man was shot to death at the party near the town of Roosevelt where about 20 people were drinking, said Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Tucker. Police had no motive and had made no arrests.
And in Chicago, a 7-year-old girl out trick-or-treating in a bumblebee costume was shot in the neck by someone firing from across the street at a gang member. A juvenile identified as a person of interest in the shooting was taken into custody Friday. The girl was in critical but stable condition Friday.
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