We’re just learning about a tragic story out of Harris County, Texas, where police say they discovered a married couple and their 5-year-old child dead in an apparent murder-suicide Friday afternoon.
The couple is a 36-year-old man and 37-year-old woman. Relatives had tried to contact the small family earlier this week and were unable to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
This afternoon around noon, they went by the apartment where the family lived, tucked away in the 21000 block of Inverness Forest off the Hardy Toll Road.
They told police they noticed the family’s cars were in the parking lot, but no one was answering the door when they knocked.
Gonzalez said when they went to the nearby leasing office and explained the situation, one of the employees opened the door.
The relatives went inside and that’s where they found the couple and their 5-year-old daughter dead in a bedroom.
Police say it’s not clear who was killed first, but according to Gonzalez there was a firearm found near the man’s body, indicating to detectives that he might have been the killer.
The relatives who found their bodies told police nothing had seemed off about the family in question immediately before the shooting, except for the fact that they hadn’t been heard from in days.
Detectives are trying to work out the timing of when things happened, but believe it might have happened as early as Tuesday. They say that’s the last time relatives heard from the family.
Police say the father hadn’t show up for work at least on Friday, but they weren’t yet sure if he had been at his job earlier in the week as well.
It’s not the first time Gonzalez’ office has responded to a situation like this.
There were too such cases in 2018 – the first last July.
Police say 8-year-old Sarah Wolfe and 12-year-old Phillip Bernal were both killed by Wolfe’s father, 38-year-old Cimarron Wolfe. They say he then turned the gun on himself in east Harris County.
That same November, 15-year-old Isabella and 14-year-old Maria Perez were both killed by their stepfather, Victor Portillo. He also died by suicide in a home near Katy.
“It’s very sad,” Gonzalez said. “In my career as a homicide investigator, I investigated many murder-suicides. It’s a little bit more rare when a child’s involved, but we’ve seen it before.”
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This morning out of St. Louis, we reported on another story that outraged parents across America.
St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner won’t charge a man in the shooting death of Xavier Usanga, 7, saying she wants more evidence.
This, despite the fact that federal authorities say a suspect confessed.
On Thursday afternoon, Gardner released a statement about the investigation surrounding the fatal shooting on August 12 of Usanga.
According to federal authorities, Malik Ross has confessed to the shooting.
Ross is currently being held on a separate charge, accused of stealing money from an armored car company where he worked.
Why exactly won’t Gardner charge him? She essentially blames a lack of gun control… and indicated she doesn’t believe the feds, calling it an “alleged confession”.
She’s also the same woman who fought against Constitutional Carry laws in Missouri and joined fellow Democrats in arguing it would result in more “black boys” being killed by “trigger-happy police officers”.
Here’s the back story.
Usanga was playing in the yard with his sisters on the 3500 block of North 11th Street in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood on Monday, August 12. That’s when he was struck in the neck by a bullet. Also critically injured in the shooting was an 18-year-old.
Malik Ross was arrested Wednesday morning at Prairie and W. Florissant Avenue and is facing federal charges unrelated to Usanga’s killing – he’s accused of stealing $50,000 from an armored car company where he worked.
Federal prosecutors say that after Ross stole the money, he vanished… but that they were able to find him at a home in the 4400 block of East Prairie near West Florissant after he turned on his cellphone.
Federal court documents clearly show that Ross admitted to firing the shot that killed Usanga, but Gardner says her office has been “unable to determine who is legally responsible for the death of Xavier” based on the present evidence.
“I released this statement today with the hope that people will work together to bring justice to Xavier and all crime victims,” she said on Twitter.
She looked for people on Twitter to have her back.
I released this statement today with the hope that people will work together to bring justice to Xavier and all crime victims. pic.twitter.com/QRjlXvjLO2
— Kimberly Gardner (@StLouisCityCA) August 29, 2019
The statement read:
My job as top prosecutor in the City of St. Louis is to seek justice. Justice does not mean charging someone with insufficient evidence, charging someone to alleviate public pressure, or taking one narrative or one piece of evidence and making broad assumptions about the facts of any case.
A team of career prosecutors in my office has spent countless hours working with police and federal prosecutors investigating the tragic death of Xavier Usanga. Unfortunately, the release of snippets of information (true and untrue) regarding the investigation has made the search for the truth a lot more difficult. In addition, Missouri’s current gun and self-defense laws make us all less safe and hinder law enforcement’s ability to hold people accountable in this and so many other cases.
While I rarely discuss a case during an open investigation, there is information from the public that is needed right now to seek justice for Xavier.
Based upon the current evidence and Missouri law, we are unable to determine who is legally responsible for the death of Xavier. The evidence presented by police to date is insufficient to charge anyone. The alleged “confession” of the identified suspect and others involved are not fully supported by the current physical and/or eye-witness evidence. We have asked for a significant amount of follow-up work from police designed to clarify facts and corroborate testimony. The current suspect is in federal custody on charges unrelated to the homicide of Xavier. He is currently not a threat to public safety or a flight risk.
We know there are people in the community who either saw the course of events that day or have been given information by the parties involved in the shooting. Those of you who know something, we need your help and we need it now. Public cooperation can send a message to our community that we will not stand silent when public safety is at risk.
Please call Crimestoppers. Call the police. Call my office. This cooperation can result in accountability, as just yesterday we were able to hold a murderer accountable because the people who had information cooperated with our office. I believe when we all work together, we can bring justice to Xavier and all crime victims.
Meanwhile, Ross remains in federal custody for the armored car theft.
For Gardner, a Democrat from St. Louis, it’s far from being her first clash with police.
In February, she clashed with the top cop in St. Louis over how police handled the mysterious shooting of a young officer by a colleague.
St. Louis Police Commissioner John Hayden Jr. said he was insulted by allegations by the city’s circuit attorney that his officers interfered with her investigators in the hours after the shooting, reported USA Today.
Police say Officer Nathaniel Hendren, 29, shot Officer Katlyn Alix, 24, in his apartment shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 24. They say Hendren and Alix were taking turns pointing a revolver loaded with single cartridge at each other and pulling the trigger. Hendren’s partner, Patrick Riordan, was also present, according to the report.
Moreover, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said there was evidence that drugs or alcohol might have been a factor in the shooting. The three officers had been drinking before the shooting, according to police.
Alix, who was off-duty at the time, was struck in the chest. Consequently, she was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Hendren, who was on-duty, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.
Gardner wrote to Hayden and the city’s public safety director asserting that police officers interfered with her investigators efforts to issue a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from Hendren and his partner.
Furthermore, the prosecutor claimed that police collected evidence in an “obstructionist” way that could prevent her office from getting a full understanding of the incident.
In rebuttal, Hayden said the accusations were simply untrue.
“Let it be clear that the accusations lodged by the circuit attorney was both offensive and insulting to the force investigative unit and myself,” Hayden said.
Gardner said police told her investigators that the hospital “would not honor a search warrant to draw blood” from Hendren or his partner.
“I’m sure you are aware that we have a protocol with area hospitals that they will honor our search warrants for blood draws,” Gardner wrote. “This procedure is common in criminal investigations.”
Later, she said, police officials told one of her prosecutors that a sample had been drawn. But when an investigator from her office asked if a blood sample was drawn, she said, police responded that a breath test and urine analysis had been performed, not a blood test.
She said her office learned that the tests were taken “under Garrity,” federal rules that protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investigations conducted by their employers.
As a result, that could prevent the evidence from being used by her prosecutors in their investigation of the shooting.
“Taking the tests under Garrity appears as an obstructionist tactic to prevent us from understanding the state of the officers during the commission of this alleged crime,” Gardner wrote.
Hayden called a press conference to push back against her claims.
He said the Force Investigative Unit – the six-member team investigating the shooting – and internal affairs officers had to balance protocols in investigating a homicide that was also a police-involved shooting.
“Their combined homicide investigative experience spans more than 40 years,” Hayden said. “On the night of this tragic incident, our Force Investigative Unit and our Internal Affairs Division followed city regulations and department procedures to the letter.
“The accusation by the circuit attorney that any action … was taken as obstructionist tactic was unwarranted, certainly untimely, and absolutely irresponsible.”
Yet Gardner said the criminal investigation should have taken priority over the internal affairs investigation.
“It’s time to focus our efforts on working together to seek the truth of this matter, so we can get justice for Katlyn Alix and the community,” Gardner said.
Gardner also criticized Hayden for calling the shooting an “accidental discharge” in comments to reporters hours after the incident. Police initially said Hendren had “mishandled” the gun.
Hayden said he was conveying preliminary investigation that was gathered by detectives at the scene. He was aware that there were several firearms, he said, and that at least one had been handled in a “careless and unsafe manner.”
“I later learned that circumstances surrounding the shooting were much more reckless and dangerous than what I had originally understood,” he said. “At no time was the sharing of my early understanding … meant to imply that any conclusions had been drawn from the infancy stages of the investigation.”
A St. Louis judge changed the conditions of Hendren’s bond. The officer, who has been suspended without pay, had been held in lieu of $50,000 cash-only bail.
Associate Circuit Judge David Roither set a $100,000 bond, but said Hendren would have to put up only $10,000 to be released while he awaits trial. Hendren was released on house arrest.
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