GUNMAN KILLS 2, WOUNDS
4 IN SHOOTING ON SQUARE
By: KENNETH DEAN, MARK COLLETTE & JACQUE HILBURN, Staff Writers February 24, 2005
A Tyler man embroiled in a bitter child support dispute opened fire Thursday on his ex-wife and son with a high-powered rifle, killing the woman and a bystander who attempted to intervene.
Several people, including three lawmen, were wounded in the exchange, which began about 1:25 p.m. outside the Smith County Courthouse.
Police ultimately shot and killed David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. after he fired repeatedly at officers during a two-mile chase that ended off U.S. Highway 271.
The 43-year-old suspect, who was wearing multiple layers of body armor, died in a hail of police gunfire after authorities rammed his pickup and he emerged, gun raised and firing.
The scene around the normally quiet courthouse turned into chaos as people dove for cover to escape the gunman. Office workers scrambled to lock doors and crawl to safety.
Authorities said it was the bloodiest day in recent memory.
The dead, both of Tyler, have been identified as Maribel Estrada, 41, and Mark Allen Wilson, 52, a personal trainer and gun enthusiast. The wounded include David Arroyo Jr., 23, the suspect's son, three law enforcement officers and a bystander. Others were injured by flying glass.
Authorities surmised afterward the deceased never had a chance.
Details continue to emerge, but preliminary evidence suggests Arroyo planned the ambush to the minutest detail.
He was armed with an AK-47, two types of body armor and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, said Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle.
Authorities were still trying to determine how Arroyo obtained the weapon and body armor, and officers were searching his home in Tyler Thursday evening.
Within a span of about two minutes, the downtown square in Tyler was transformed to a landscape of shell casings, broken glass and stunned witnesses.
"I saw people lying everywhere that had been shot," said a dazed Nathan Hoffman, an attorney working directly across the street from the courthouse when shots rang out.
"I saw a guy walking down the street with a high-powered rifle shooting at the courthouse," Hoffman said. "I said, 'Everyone move to the back of the office!'" By then, the scene erupted in chaos.
The gunman, Hoffman said, was "just running down the street shooting."
Witnesses said Arroyo ambushed his ex-wife and son outside the courthouse and started firing.
Ms. Estrada was struck multiple times and died on the lower steps on the east side of the courthouse, officials said.
Arroyo continued firing, aiming next at his son.
"He was either wounded or dead, but the guy (Arroyo) shot him again to make sure he wouldn't get up," said witness Brandon Malone, a Tyler builder who was lunching inside Don Juan's.
Smith County Sheriff's Deputy Sherman Dollison, 28, who was serving as a substitute bailiff for the day, was shot multiple times while standing on the landing of the courthouse steps.
He is listed in critical condition at East Texas Medical Center with injuries to the lungs and liver.
SCSO Lt. Marlin Suell, 38, and Tyler Police Det. Clay Perrett, 54, were injured by stray gunfire - Suell in the back of the neck and Perrett to the side of the face.
Repeated shots fired by the suspect shattered glass and sent bystanders scurrying for cover, behind benches, bushes and vehicles.
Several people were wounded by flying glass and one man fell unconscious after suffering a seizure, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The noise prompted Mark Wilson, a gun enthusiast, to intervene as Arroyo continued to fire on his wounded son.
"They traded shots, missing each other, and then the gunman hit Wilson and Wilson went down," said Nelson Clyde III, publisher of the Tyler Morning Telegraph, recalling the shooting as he watched from Don Juan's.
"The gunman walked up to Wilson and shot him while he was on the ground," Clyde said. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing ... it was sickening."
Witnesses said Arroyo calmly walked to his truck, still trading shots with an unidentified man lying beside a Chevrolet, and climbed inside.
"He slowly backed up a bit, and drove away at normal speed, right past a patrol car," Clyde said.
Wilson approached the suspect and fired several times, but the shots appeared useless due to the multiple layers of body armor, witnesses said.
He was wearing both a bulletproof vest and a military flak jacket.
Arroyo turned and fired on Wilson, killing him just a few feet outside the front door of Levine's clothing store. The suspect climbed into his maroon Chevrolet stepside pickup and sped away.
Witness Ron Martell, a military veteran who watched the killing spree, trailed the fleeing suspect and pointed him out to police.
"At first, I couldn't believe it," he said. "I watched the suspect shoot that guy at least seven times. Then he got into his truck and casually drove away. I followed him."
City, county, state and federal law enforcement officers rushed to chase down the suspect and tend to the wounded.
Sirens wailing, authorities began chasing Arroyo, who fired at officers and the courthouse as he sped away from the killing scene.
The caravan of officers pursued the suspect to North Spring Avenue and onto East Gentry Parkway, trailing him to the area of U.S. 271 and Duncan Street.
Witnesses up and down the corridor rushed for cover from stray gunfire as Arroyo continued firing at officers.
"When they came through, there were a lot of shots flying around," said Henry Lee, manager of Rayson Automotive, 2021 E. Gentry Parkway. "I ducked."
A deputy rammed the man's vehicle, prompting him to emerge firing.
Officers returned fire, striking the man several times, at least once in the head.
Sobbing relatives rushed to the location, but were held at bay by authorities.
Authorities spent hours searching the highway for spent casings. Dozens of tiny markers documented the number of shots fired.
"Obviously he came prepared because he came with a bulletproof flak jacket," said Chief Swindle. "Witnesses reported seeing him reload."
Swindle said of the law officers on the scene, "They were simply outgunned. They were armed with handguns and he (Arroyo) was armed with an AK-47."
Arroyo had previously told his wife he would kill her if she pressed the issue of child support, authorities said.
"He came here with one thing in mind," Swindle said. "He had the act set in his mind to murder his ex-wife. He has a history of assaulting his ex-wife and several weapons offenses."
Authorities credited Wilson with possibly saving the life of Arroyo's son, who was reported to be in fair condition.
Swindle said the armor worn by Arroyo was designed to withstand not just bullets, but also landmine explosions.
Staff writers Patrick Butler and Roy Maynard contributed to this report.
Jacque Hilburn covers Tyler city government, planning and zoning and the Parks Board. She can be reached at 903.596.6282. e-mail: email@example.com
Kenneth Dean covers police, fire, public safety organizations, Cherokee and Rusk counties. He can be reached at 903.596.6353. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Collette covers Smith County. He can be reached at 903.596.6303. e-mail: email@example.com
©Tyler Morning Telegraph 2005
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02-25-2005, 09:07 AM #1
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
02-25-2005, 09:30 AM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2004
- Bossier Parrish, Louisiana
Saw that on the news over here in Shreveport Sugar .... must have been just like an old west shootout.
02-25-2005, 11:45 AM #3
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- Nov 2004
Tyler is only 45min from here, my thoughts and prayers are will all those who lost loved ones
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