Veteran officer, gunman die in Texas shootout

For more than 30 minutes, 35-year-old gunman Thomas Alton Caffall exchanged shots with the police

By Michael Graczyk
Published August 14, 2012 7:45AM (EDT)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — A routine serving of an eviction notice to a man living near the Texas A&M University campus turned deadly for Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann when the resident opened fire on him, leading to the death of the law enforcement officer and another man before the gunman was killed.

The spasm of deadly violence Monday left a neighborhood shaken, a tight-knit law enforcement community in mourning and the family of 35-year-old gunman Thomas Alton Caffall anguished and "distraught by the havoc that he has caused."

Just after noon, College Station police began fielding frantic 911 calls reporting shots being fired. Officers responding saw the 41-year-old Bachmann down on the lawn and also were taking gunfire.

For nearly 30 minutes police exchanged shots with Caffall, 35.

By then, Bachmann, a police instructor, one-time Officer of the Year and a married father of two, had been mortally wounded. So was Chris Northcliff, 43, of College Station, who was outside and apparently caught up in the gunfire.

So was Caffall.

Police wouldn't speculate on what sparked the deadly outburst, which is the latest shooting nationwide resulting in multiple deaths in recent weeks.

"We're trying to make some sense of this," College Station Assistant Police Chief Scott McCollum said.

Details about Caffall were slow to emerge.

Officials at Texas A&M, the 50,000-student school that dominates the city about 100 miles northwest of Houston, said he was neither a student nor school employee. Police said he was renting the home where he was staying and was not the owner.

Caffall's sister said Monday night the family was "shocked" by the violence.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and this is just a senseless tragedy," said Courtney Clark, Caffall's sister, reached Monday evening at her mother's home in Navasota, about 20 miles to the south. "We are just distraught by the havoc that he has caused."

She declined additional comment.

Besides the three fatalities, a 55-year-old woman also was wounded and was hospitalized in serious condition. Her name had not been released by Monday evening.

Another officer, Justin Oehlkee, was treated for a gunshot wound in the calf and was in stable condition, police spokeswoman Rhonda Seaton said. Two other officers — Brad Smith and Phil Dorsett — were treated for "shrapnel injuries" and released, Seaton said.

McCollum said the Bachmann's death was particularly devastating because he was so respected as a colleague and was "very close to everyone in law enforcement."

"He was a pillar in this community, and it's sad and tragic that we've lost him today," McCollum said.

Bachmann had worked more than 19 years in law enforcement, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. He had been a constable since January 2011, after winning election to the post the prior November.

Constables are law enforcement officers similar to sheriff's deputies and are elected to serve in specific county precincts. They primarily serve civil warrants and official paperwork or act as courtroom bailiffs.

Officers lined up to salute Monday afternoon as Bachmann's body was moved from a hospital and placed into a white van for transfer to a funeral home.

Texas A&M issued an emergency alert warning students and residents to stay clear of the area not far from the school's football stadium, but most students weren't on campus because the fall semester doesn't start until later this month.

Diana Harbourt, 27, whose house is about a block from the shooting scene, said she had just come home for lunch when she and her boyfriend heard five loud popping sounds.

"I just thought it was somebody moving wood or stacking something," Harbourt said. "Then we heard more sirens and more officers and fire trucks came and they were keeping their distance, kind of slowly moving in. More officers showed up and told us to stay inside. ... The fear didn't hit me until after the fact, especially when I found a bullet hole in front of my house."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an A&M alumnus, said at an event in Florida that his "prayers are with any of those that have been injured." A&M President R. Bowen Loftin issued a statement calling Monday a "sad day in the Bryan-College Station community."


Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston, Nomaan Merchant in Dallas and Melissa Nelson-Gabriel in Destin, Fla., contributed to this report.

Michael Graczyk

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