HAYS COUNTY, Texas –The Hays County Sheriff’s Office is investigating what it believes was an ambush against some of its deputies, prompting a shootout that left the suspect dead and one officer injured Friday morning in Wimberley.
Deputies rushed to the 11500 block of Ranch Road 12 after a 911 caller told dispatchers an armed man was trying to break into Jean’s Antiques. The caller described the armed man to dispatchers, right down to the clothing, the sheriff said.
“At this point in time, it looks like it was him,” Sheriff Gary Cutler told reporters Friday morning. “We think it was him that made the phone call at this time. There’s no other suspects — I want to ensure the people of Wimberley it’s safe out there, there’s not some person running around that we’re with. We do have the shooter,” Cutler said.
The man the sheriff suspects made the 911 calls is Rocky Miles West, the 26 year old man killed in the shootout.
The shooting happened around 3:48 a.m. at Spoke Hollow Road near Ranch Road 12. According to the sheriff’s office, Deputy Benjamin Gieselman, 28, was one of four deputies responding to the 911.
The sheriff said deputies did not find any evidence of a break in at the shop, but dispatchers were able to give the exact location of the 911 caller, who placed the call from a cell phone. The location was home to Rocky Miles West, a man the sheriff said his department knew well.
West’s address is about a quarter-mile behind the antique shop. The sheriff said West was hiding behind a rock wall alongside Spoke Hollow Road and began shooting at deputies with a 12 gauge shotgun.
Three of the four patrol vehicles were shot, and Gieselman was hit in the legs and upper body. He was flown to a nearby hospital with what the sheriff’s office described as “non-life threatening” injuries. Gieselman, the sheriff said, was shot with bird shot, the smallest pieces of lead a shotgun will fire.
Cutler said investigators found buck shot shell casings at the scene, which are large pieces of lead used by hunters to kill large game at farther distances. A shotgun equipped with what’s known as a “plug” would limit the numbers of shells it could hold to three. If the “plug” is removed, a standard 12 can hold five shells at a time.
Investigators found nine shell casings at the scene, the sheriff said. It’s possible West could have reloaded two times during the shootout, but the sheriff said he did not know if West’s shotgun contained the plug at this point to know how many times the shotgun was reloaded.
“You’ve got to understand, these officers are very lucky — their cars got shot pretty good,” Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said at a news conference. “Very lucky. I mean, the shooter was at such a close distance to those cars with a shotgun and it’s pitch dark up there, it’s not a lighted area, there’s no street lights. There’s no houses that close to it—an isolated area out there, it’s dark. Like I said, he’s behind a—3 foot rock wall—if that,” Cutler told reporters.
Sheriff Cutler said he estimated the first shotgun blast into one of the first responding patrol cars happened when the deputy was within 20 yards of the shooter. Deputies had not given full statements to investigators as of Friday morning’s press conference, but the sheriff said he did not think the deputies saw the shooter behind the wall until the first shots were fired.
The deputies returned fire as the suspect, Rocky Miles West, 26, ran into nearby woods. Deputies found West dead and investigators believe he was shot and killed by deputies.
According to HCSO, West had an extensive criminal history and the sheriff’s office was very familiar with him. He was arrested most recently in October 2017. West’s previous arrest was in January on a charge of assault with bodily injury stemming from a domestic incident, the sheriff’s office reported.
When asked by KXAN how and if the sheriff’s office trained deputies for ambush-style attacks, the sheriff said the deputies involved had completed “Night Fire” training at the sheriff’s academy just last week. The training helps deputies handle shooting scenarios in darkness and being shot at in the dark. The training, the sheriff indicated, helped deputies survive Friday morning’s shootout.
Cutler says the Texas Rangers are conducting a parallel investigation. It and the sheriff’s office are going through the 911 tape, as well as body camera footage. They are interviewing friends and family as well.