Police response before shooting questioned again

COLDSPRING, TX The records showed that San Jacinto County sheriff's deputies did not reach the home near the southeast Texas town of Coldspring, about 60 miles north of Houston, until seven hours after a phone call from Gloria Bills. The 71-year-old widow reported that she was concerned about the behavior of her 43-year-old adopted son, Oliver "Bubba" Bills Jr.

Authorities say Bills Jr. fatally shot his girlfriend, 27-year-old Shara Torres; her 4-year-old daughter; and Gloria Bills at the family's home before killing himself Nov. 7.

"We were busier than a cat covered in Meow Mix," sheriff's Capt. Carl Jones said at the time.

Now, records obtained by the Chronicle showed that four hours passed without significant police activity during that seven-hour period before deputies responded to a wreck. In an audio recording, Jones tells a dispatcher not to make a welfare check on Bills.

In her first phone call to the sheriff's office, a frightened-sounding Gloria Bills reported, "I need some help and I need it now." She said she had heart trouble and was unable to control her son, who she said might need to be taken to a mental facility.

The man was hearing voices and having other paranoid hallucinations, she reported. When the mother called again, at 1:51 p.m., the dispatcher said she'd send a deputy to make a welfare check. But when the dispatcher called Jones to report her intention, Jones answered, "Oh, no, we don't want to do that. ... All you going to do is wind up creating a issue ... that may hurt us in the long run."

Jones declined to comment on the recorded exchange because of a possible lawsuit by Torres' family. But Sheriff James Walters said an internal investigation led to no disciplinary action against his personnel.

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