San Marcos police officer killed in ‘ambush-type’ shooting

San Marcos Police Officer Kenneth Copeland (City of San Marcos)
San Marcos Police Officer Kenneth Copeland (City of San Marcos)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The San Marcos police officer shot and killed Monday afternoon has been identified as 58-year-old Kenneth Copeland, in what has become the first officer killed in the line of duty in that police department’s history.

Copeland, who had a wife and four children, was working on what would have been his day off, serving an arrest warrant for a violent crime around 2:23 p.m., Chief of Police Chase Stapp said in an emotional news conference Monday evening.

Shortly after the officers arrived in the El Camino Real subdivision, the male suspect — who has not been identified — began firing at the officers, “much like in an ambush type of situation,” Chief Stapp said. Copeland was wearing a protective vest, but was shot multiple times.

Another officer rushed Copeland to the Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, where medical staff worked to save his life. The officer was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m.

The suspect, who surrendered to police following a standoff with the San Marcos/Hays County SWAT team, was found to have been shot and taken to South Austin Medical Center where he’s being guarded. Chief Stapp said it’s unclear if the suspect’s injuries were self-inflicted or if he was shot by an officer. Once medically stable, Chief Stapp said the suspect will be taken into custody.

Describing the 19-year department veteran as a hero, the chief said Copeland worked just about every day off, “to provide for his kids and because he knows we’re short-handed and need the help. His picture’s hanging in different parts of this Police Department because everybody loved him.”

The San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District said four area schools were placed on lockdown after the shooting. The children who were waiting for their parents were kept inside. Children who were on school buses getting ready to leave for the day were brought back inside.

The lockdowns at the four schools — Bowie Elementary, DeZavala Elementary, Mendez Elementary and San Marcos High School — were lifted around 5 p.m.

Copeland was recently honored for the in-school Cub Scouts program at Mendez Elementary. He was also a brother with Sigma Phi Epsilon, and was honored by the Texas chapter on its Facebook page Monday.

“There’s a lot of great officers,” Promiseland Church Pastor Michael Higgins told KXAN. “There’s only a few that really mesh with our environment and Ken Copeland was so highly respected.” Copeland worked security for the church.

In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “Today we grieve for the family of the fallen San Marcos police officer, and we vow swift justice for the killer. The men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to protect and to serve our communities, and we will never forget their sacrifices. Cecilia and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the officer’s family and to the entire San Marcos Police Department.”

The 100 Club of Central Texas works to help grieving families of officers who die in the line of duty. People can find out more or donate to help on its website.

Editor’s Note: The city of San Marcos initially said the shooting happened in the Cottonwood Creek subdivision, but later corrected that it happened in the El Camino Real subdivision. 

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