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Family: Texas shootout gunman had mental illness

Posted: August 15, 2012 9:00 a.m.
Updated: August 15, 2012 9:00 a.m.
 

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — In the months leading up to Monday's shootout near Texas A&M University that killed three, gunman Thomas Alton Caffall III had cut off contact with his family, even though his mother was seriously ill.

Caffall's family said the 35-year-old told them he had his own issues, an unspecified mental illness they declined to comment on.

On Monday, Caffall opened fire on a law enforcement officer who was trying to serve him with a court summons for being two months behind on rent. The officer was killed.

Police said officers shot and killed Caffall during the 30-minute shootout. A bystander also died and four others were wounded; police did not say whose gunfire struck them.

"It breaks our hearts his illness led to this," Caffall's family said in a statement released through an attorney.

Authorities continued their investigation Tuesday, saying Caffall was in possession of multiple weapons and fired numerous times.

W. Tyler Moore, the family's attorney, had known Caffall since he was 4 years old.

"He wasn't the same kid that he used to be, let's just say that," Moore said. "He was sweet, very bright, good sense of humor, just a good kid, a sweet kid."

Moore said the Caffall he used to know may have surfaced when, just before dying, Caffall offered an apology to the officer he had fatally shot.

College Station Police Chief Jeff Capps said Tuesday that Caffall had "some long guns and pistols" in his home, but would not give details and did not say whether the weapons had been obtained legally.

"The crime scene is still being processed," Capps said.

Capps said he wasn't aware of any previous law enforcement contact with the gunman.

Just after noon Monday, College Station police fielded frantic 911 calls about gunfire in the neighborhood near the university's football stadium. Responding officers found Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann, 41, shot on the lawn of the house.

"Either upon approach to the house or shortly after, it appears he was shot by the suspect," Capps said Tuesday.

Bachmann had volunteered to deliver a notice for Caffall to appear in court on Aug. 23 because he was at least two months behind paying his rent, owing $1,250, said Michael McCleary, a justice of the peace in Brazos County.

"Another deputy was planning on taking the (notice), but Brian grabbed it from him and said, 'I'll take it.' He enjoyed doing it," McCleary said.

Before Caffall was taken from the scene, Rigo Cisneros, a neighbor and former medic, treated him.

"I started identifying his wounds and at that point he asked me to apologize to the officer he had shot," said Cisneros, 40.

The former medic said he has not put any thought into whether Caffall was being sincere.

"My only thought was with the officers that were wounded and killed. I could care less if I ever knew (Caffall's) name," Cisneros said.

Officials at Texas A&M, the 50,000-student school that dominates the city 100 miles northwest of Houston, said Caffall was neither a student nor school employee.

College Station resident Chris Northcliff was at least 100 yards away from the shootout when he was mortally wounded. Police confirmed his age Tuesday as 51; earlier, they said he was 43.

Robby Bounds, Northcliff's brother-in-law, said Northcliff was checking on a rental property he owned when he was shot.

"He was a very creative, very kind man," Bounds said of the married father of two children. "Everybody is still kind of shell-shocked. It's one of those things you hear about on TV and never expect to happen."

Houston resident Barbara Holdsworth, 51, was wounded in the shoulder Monday, and listed in serious condition Tuesday.

College Station Police Officer Justin Oehlke was treated for a gunshot wound in the calf and was in stable condition, police spokeswoman Rhonda Seaton said. Two other officers — Brad Smith and Phil Dorsett — were treated for "shrapnel injuries" and released, Seaton said.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a database of slain law enforcement officers, Bachmann is the first Brazos County constable killed in the line of duty since Randall Millican was gunned down in December 1889. Millican held the post in the same county precinct.

Former President George H.W. Bush, whose presidential library is on the A&M campus, offered his condolences Tuesday, saying, "While we cannot understand the senselessness that led to this shocking series of events, we do know that the Bryan-College Station community — which is like a home for us — will come together to comfort and, just as importantly, to persevere."

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