New details in deadly College Station shooting

August 14, 2012 8:02:43 PM PDT
There are new details in the case of the College Station gunman who police say killed a constable and another man, and injured four other people, as investigators try to answer why the shooting happened.

Brazos County Pct. 1 Constable Brian Bachmann, 41, and the suspect, Thomas Caffall, 35, were killed after Caffall opened fire Monday from a home near Texas A&M University. Police say Chris Northcliffe, 51, was caught in the crossfire and was also fatally shot. Police say Constable Bachmann had gone to the property to serve an eviction notice.

We heard from a neighbor of the man police say is believed to be the first 911 caller. She had just moved in the day before the shooting when she and two cable guys were forced to hide and run from the bullets.

"All of a sudden there were gunshots outside my house and the cable people actually saw the shooter," said neighbor Kelli Blayney.

She says one of the two men installing cable at her new home peeked out of the window, and across the street from the Aggie student's house, saw Caffall firing at Constable Bachmann, who was serving him an eviction notice.

It started around noon Monday as Constable Bachmann was serving the eviction notice at a residence in the 200 block of Fidelity. He soon found himself under fire from Caffall, said College Station Police Department Assistant Chief Scott McCollum. We're told Caffall, who also went by the name Tres, was renting that house.

"He (the cable guy) told me he saw the shooter shoot the cop and actually as the cop was lying on the ground, he (Caffall) went over and took the cop's gun," Blayney said.

That's when she says, "All of a sudden he started shooting my house, probably like 5 to 10 times, and at that point the (cable) man was like, 'We need to leave,'" Blayney said.

College Station police say when they arrived on scene, Caffall engaged them in a 30-minute gun battle. Blayney says she and the cable guys ran.

"I didn't grab my shoes, I didn't turn off anything. I just had my phone and my body, and we ran out the back and started house jumping, breaking people's fences, trying to hide wherever we could hide. In the process, I saw two people who had been shot on the ground."

College Station police Officer Justin Oehlke, just 25 years old with one year on the force, was shot in the leg and is now stable after surgery. We're told two other officers -- Brad Smith, 54, and Phil Dorsett, 30 -- were hit by shrapnel, but their injuries weren't serious.

"Our officers were and they were arriving to the scene. On their initial arrival, they started taking gunfire, shot at them. They returned fire, and that went on for several minutes back and forth. And officers were able to actually shoot the suspect," said College Station Police Chief Jeff Capps.

Constable Bachmann was then transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

During the incident, police say Caffall fired multiple rounds and investigators recovered long guns and a pistol from the scene.

"They were so close to me that I thought I was for sure going to get shot, and after seeing bodies lying on the ground, like no one should have to see that," Blayley said.

Another neighbor says the shooter asked him to apologize to the deputy who'd been shot. Rigo Cisneros, a former medic, tells The Bryan-College Station Eagle that Caffall made that request as he lay dying from bullet wounds he suffered in a shootout with police.

Among the injured was Barbara Holdsworth, 51, of Houston. She was shot in the shoulder and was taken to A&M St. Joseph Regional Health Center, where she underwent surgery and now is listed in serious condition. According to her daughter, the bullet also damaged her lung.

We're told Holdsworth is a Houston real estate agent who lives on the west side, but was in College Station to help her daughter move ahead of the start of the school year.

Members Holdsworth's Houston-area church say they've been sending a lot of prayers.

"Fortunately, it appears that our prayers have been answered in terms of getting her through the surgery and so forth. She came through the surgery, and now she's in a period of recovery, and we continue to pray for her quick healing," said Pastor Bob Johnson with Chapelwood uUnited Methodist Church.

Church staff tell us it appears Holdsworth will survive her injuries, but she'll likely have a long road to recovery.

As for Constable Bachmann, the loss of a fellow officer is their greatest wound. Friends of Constable Bachmann are devastated, as is his wife and two children, ages 9 and 14. They tell us he was truly a leader even when he was not on the job.

"Brian Bachmann is 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. "As you can imagine, as close as he was to all the officers in this area, these are the officers that are having to work this case and work through not only the emotions but all the details that required to make sure that we have a good understanding as to why this occurred."

We spoke to a close friend of the late constable. He told us that Constable Bachmann had a big impact on many people's lives. The friend also told us how Bachmann was helping people though his church.

"Very involved in the church, ushering, involved in different programs. Really a great person. A great role model for not only the kids but the adults and everybody who knew him," said friend Jeff Kersten.

Constable Bachmann has been a certified peace office since 1992. He's became a Brazos County sheriff's deputy in 1993.

He is the first constable in Brazos County to be killed in the line of duty since 1889. During Bachmann's campaign for constable he said that he wanted to bring constables back to the community. Bachmann wanted to actively patrol neighborhoods to discourage crime.

Authorities are still trying to determine the motive behind the shooting.

"We still have a lot of questions to ask and we just ask that the public be patient with us as we wade through this volume of information and as best as we can, try to make some sense out of this situation," McCollum said.

Caffall's sister Courtney Clark says her family is shocked by what her brother has done.

Clark says, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, and this is just a senseless tragedy."

Clark declined to say anything else about her brother or what might have prompted him to commit the shooting.

We're told that Caffall had been struggling with some mental issues, according to his mother. She even said she was concerned about his stability.

His mother, Linda Weaver, released a statement which read in part: "Our family was shocked and devastated by the tragedy this afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of the deceased and the wounded victims. We mourn them and the loss of Tres. He had been ill. It breaks our hearts his illness led to this."

Caffall was a self-proclaimed gun enthusiast who posted on Facebook about his guns. What remains to be seen is how he obtained his weapons, how many he had, and if he had a license to carry them. All of this is part of the ongoing investigation.

The scene is a few blocks from the campus football stadium, Kyle Field, and prompted Texas A&M officials to take action. At about 12:30pm, a Code Maroon warning was issued to students to avoid the intersection of Welborn Road and George Bush Drive.

Texas A&M spokeswoman Sherylon Carroll said most students were not on campus yesterday and the fall semester doesn't begin until August 27.

"It appeared to be fairly quiet," Carroll said of campus. "It didn't appear to be a lot of people out and about at that particular time."

Officials at Texas A&M say Caffall was neither a student nor school employee.

Former President George H. W. Bush expressed his condolences to the victims and the community, issuing a statement which reads in part "While we cannot understand the senselessness that led to this shocking series of events, we do know that the Bryan-College Station community -- which is like a home for us -- will come together to comfort and, just as importantly, to persevere."

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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