Four shot, one killed outside Jefferson County Courthouse

March 15, 2012 10:25:21 AM PDT
A Houston man at court with family members opened fire outside a southeast Texas courthouse Wednesday, killing one person and wounding at least three others before briefly taking hostages at a nearby business, police said.

The 41-year-old gunman had been inside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont but went out to his pickup truck shortly after 11am, drew a weapon and began shooting, police said. He has been identified as Bartholomew Granger, from Houston.

A detective outside the courthouse fired back. He quickly was joined by law enforcement officers from nearby buildings, police said.

Officials say Granger retreated to his truck and, still firing, ran over his 20-year-old daughter, who had also been shot. He drove about three blocks and abandoned his truck in the middle of the street before entering a nearby construction business, police said.

Granger was taken into custody by Beaumont police SWAT officers at noon.

Authorities say Granger was on trial at the Criminal District Court for aggravated sexual assault. Two of the shooting victims, including his daughter, were witnesses in the case.

The trial began yesterday. Granger's daughter had already testified, and was scheduled for rebuttal testimony today.

Minnie Ray Seabolt, 79, was pronounced dead at the scene, in front of the courthouse main entrance. She was from Deweyville, Texas.

With hostages inside, the gunman spoke by phone to police and told them he was wounded. He eventually surrendered and was taken to an area hospital.

Granger was treated and released. He is currently in the Jefferson County Jail, charged with one count of murder. His bond on the aggravated sexual assault charge was revoked.

"It was crazy," Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary said. "He was shooting. Our guys were shooting. It was a classic shootout."

A pickup truck riddled with at least a dozen bullet holes remained in the middle of the street Wednesday afternoon.

James Gibson, one of the owners of Richard Construction, said about 50 to 60 employees were inside when the gunman entered. An assault rifle believed to belong to the gunman remained in the building, Gibson said.

Authorities declined to identify the type of weapon the gunman used.

"It was pandemonium," Judge Larry Gist, whose office is across the street from the main courthouse building, said as he described how law enforcement flooded the scene as soon as the shots rang out.

Ricky Gandy said he went to the window of his office at LJA Engineering, which overlooks the parking lot next to the Beaumont Police department, after hearing a "pop, pop, pop."

He saw police shooting at a pickup truck as it came out of the parking lot, but the driver "never really got in a hurry."

"Once it started, it was kind of like the Fourth of July," Gandy added. "Several shots, I imagine, I'm guessing at least 30 shots all together."

At last check, Granger's 20-year-old daughter was in critical condition. Her mother and another shooting victim were treated at area hospitals and released.

Seven Beaumont police officers and two Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies who engaged Granger with gunfire are currently on administrative leave. They were not injured.

Moments after a news conference about the shooting, Jefferson County deputies arrested Lyndon Granger, the brother of the alleged Jefferson County Courthouse shooter, on an old charge of sexual assault. Authorities say he is accused of sexually assaulting the same girl as Bartholomew Granger. He was out on bond but a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. It's not known exactly why the judge made that move, but sources tell us it is in part to protect the public going forward.

Congressman Ted Poe issued the following statement:

    "I am deeply saddened by the shooting in Beaumont today. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of the innocent bystanders who lost their lives, and I am praying for a speedy recovery for those who are wounded. As for the shooter, I hope that justice is swift and punishment is harsh."

Beaumont is about 80 miles east of Houston.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.