AUSTIN (KXAN) — The man accused of shooting at random cars up and down Interstate 35 with an assault rifle early Saturday morning, has been arrested, according to Austin police.
“We have a lot of crime scenes. We have several people that were injured in this,” said Austin Police Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon.
Police said those bullets hit four people including a 7-year-old girl. She remained in critical condition in the ICU Saturday afternoon.
“Two adult victims suffered somewhat minor injuries that were not life-threatening,” Chacon said.
Austin police said the shooting spree started just before 2 a.m. Saturday morning — bar-closing time in the downtown area — and then ended about an hour and 15 minutes later at roughly 3:15 a.m.
Police said 911 calls came in from multiple locations along Interstate 35 — from south Austin at Stassney Lane all the way up to Wells Branch Parkway, which is an 18-mile stretch along the interstate.
The first call to 911 was someone who said they had been shot at. The caller told police they got off at the Braker Lane exit and their windows were shot out.
One minute later, police said they were getting several more calls from drivers saying someone was shooting a gun. At this point however, no one could tell where the bullets were coming from, and could not provide a vehicle description for the suspect.
About 30 minutes later at 2:30 a.m., officers were flagged down at a gas station on I-35 and Braker. Police said a man got out of a small black car and pointed an assault rifle at another vehicle before taking off. That was all captured on video.
Then, after 2:30 a.m., another call came in after bullets hit a car on Wells Branch and I-35.
Those calls continued to come in with several people reporting someone in a small black car shooting at them. A couple of people described someone pointing a gun at them, but the gun never went off.
As expected, APD 911 communications says they received an elevated number of calls Saturday morning due to the widespread nature of the incident.
However, during that time, APD says its communications answered calls at a 100 percent rate — meaning every call that dialed in to 911 was answered in fewer than ten seconds.
KXAN learned that the department’s computer aided dispatch system, or “CAD system,” was critical in plotting the call locations and ultimately, assisted in finding the suspect based on caller and witness information from the scenes. The system updates live, in real time.
“If we receive a call into 911 and there are already calls for service that are entered close by, it will give our call takers notifications,” explained Michael Payne, 911 communications supervisor for the Austin Police Department, saying emergency communications officials can get a better idea of whether calls are possibly related and provide a list of those calls to responding officers.
Payne says that, along with witness caller information, can be crucial in the timeliness and effectiveness of a response to an emergency situation.
“Having the good location information, knowing what’s going on around, being able to see that there are multiple calls coming in, I would say that it’s critical for any situation that happens where we receive multiple 911 calls that are coming from just around the area itself.”
Payne says collaboration and constant, effective communication is key.
“The dispatcher’s relying on that call taker to get the information that’s needed for those officers, just like the officers out in the field are relying on those dispatchers to be able to get the information to them that they need out in the field,” added Payne. “Trying to make sure that the information that’s being passed through is good information, that it’s clear, it’s concise, and it’s as brief, pretty much, as we can make it.”
At 3:15 a.m., the Texas Department of Public Safety said it found an abandoned vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s, parked near I-35 and US 290 with a gun inside. A trooper reportedly saw a man walking away from the vehicle.
Austin police said the U.S. Marshals Service Lone Star Fugitive Task Force was called in to assist with searching for the suspect. After the beginnings of their investigation into the abandoned vehicle, they were able to successfully locate the suspect at a residence and arrested him without incident.
Police say the vehicle the suspect was driving is not registered to him. It’s not clear whose vehicle he was driving.
So far, APD has not released the identity of the suspected shooter or the four people injured in the incident. The suspect likely won’t be named until he is formally charged.
For more information about 911 communications at APD, click here.