Waco police investigated six homicides and one justified homicide in 2017, and welcomed a continued downward trend in overall criminal activity in the city.
Last year, police investigated a total of five homicides, the fewest murders since 2010.
This year, three of Waco’s seven homicide investigations remain open with no arrests made, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said. Two other investigations resulted in the arrest of a suspect and one included a murder-suicide, where the suspected gunman shot and killed himself during the incident.
“If you can ever say murder investigations are ‘average,’ we are running about consistent with what we had last year,” Swanton said. “Murders are something that law enforcement does not really have any control over, but I think being visible to the public and having a good relationship with the public helps keep our numbers down.”
The number of robbery, assault and sexual assault cases fell below the numbers reported in 2016, while reported auto thefts rose from 35 in 2016 to 45 this year as of mid-December.
Swanton said each homicide investigation is taxing on detectives. Violent crimes are a concern for law enforcement on a daily basis, but the risk of public safety and the impact on the community is typically a large motivation for closing homicide cases, he said.
“All the types of cases we work are significant, whether it is a burglary of a vehicle case or up to a murder, however, homicide cases are so much more personal,” Swanton said. “In murders, now you have family that is left to deal with the aftermath of the tragic circumstance and they have no closure.
“Detectives know that and that is probably one of the most significant things that keeps a detective tossing and turning at night — knowing that the family doesn’t have answers.”
Here are the homicide cases investigated by Waco police in 2017, to date:
Jeremy Dewayne James
The first homicide of the year was the shooting death of Jeremy Dewayne James, 29, on Feb. 27. James was found shot in the 2300 block of Edna Avenue, near North Waco Park, where police believe a fight had broken out.
James was shot several times in the upper torso before he died later at a local hospital.
No arrests have been made and the case remains open, but police believe the shooting was not random.
Gregory Brooks, 66, was allegedly shot and killed during a domestic disturbance with his younger brother, Stanley Brooks, then 65, inside their East Waco home on April 13. Gregory Brooks was allegedly shot before he was able to escape the home and was taken to a local hospital with a gunshot wound.
Stanley Brooks was barricaded in his brother’s home in the 1800 block of Pryor Street. He was taken into custody about two hours later.
Gregory Brooks died in the hospital on May 4. His brother was charged with his murder and faces a March 12, 2018 jury trial.
Deon Dashawn Love
Police were called to a fight at Jester’s Bar, 2119 La Salle Ave., on June 24, where a group of people began an altercation. During the incident, Deon Dashawn Love, 24, was shot and killed.
Eric Hernandez, then 31, was arrested the next day on a charge of murder. His trial date is pending.
Twila and William Mooney
Waco police were called to a murder-suicide investigation of 2017 on July 21. William Mooney, 47, shot and killed his wife, Twila Mooney, 47, on their houseboat at Speegleville Marina. William Mooney then shot and killed himself.
Waco police shot and killed suspected drug dealer Kerry Bradley, 37, on Aug. 1 after trying to execute a search warrant on Bradley’s SUV near North 24th Street and Olive Avenue. Police accused Bradley of selling heroin earlier that morning.
When they approached his car to serve the warrant, Bradley reportedly accelerated toward Waco SWAT officer William Graeber, striking him and running the officer over. Fellow officers fired shots at Bradley, striking him six times and killing him. Officers were able to lift the SUV off Graeber and administer first aid.
Graeber survived the encounter and continues to recover at home. Police closed the case when a grand jury in September found no probable cause to charge officers in the death of Bradley, ruling Bradley’s death a “justified homicide.”
Anthony D. Rivera
Anthony Rivera, 19, was shot and killed in the 2300 block of Park Avenue on Oct. 29. A second shooting occurred near 26th Street and Dutton Avenue while police were investigating the first incident.
A second man suffered non-life-threatening injuries at the second shooting. Officers said both shootings may be connected, but no arrests have been made.
The investigation is ongoing.
The last reported homicide of 2017 was the shooting death of Brian Robinson, 34, of Waco, after an argument erupted between two groups of men in East Waco on Dec. 14.
Police were called to the 800 block of Harlem Avenue upon reports of gunfire in the neighborhood. Officers said at least three vehicles in the neighborhood were struck by gunfire before police found Robinson lying dead in a yard in the area.
No arrests have been made and the investigation remains ongoing, police said.
According to Waco police crime statistics, officers investigated 163 robbery reports, 2,063 assault reports, 187 sexual assault reports and 35 reports of stolen vehicles in 2016.
In comparison, from Jan. 1 to mid-December of this year, Waco police took reports of 147 robberies, 2,032 assaults, 183 sexual assaults and 45 stolen vehicles.
Outside of Waco, three other McLennan County residents were victims of homicide.
Bruceville-Eddy police investigated the shooting death of Monica Tharpe, 31, who died at her home near Woodlawn Road and Interstate 35 on May 20. Authorities surrounded the home after reports of gunfire before officers forced their way into the home and found Tharpe’s husband, Kevin Tharpe, 41, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
McLennan County Sheriff’s Office detectives investigated a double homicide this year in the deaths of Valarie Martinez, 24, and her young daughter, Azariah, 1. Martinez allegedly agreed to meet Azariah’s father, Christopher Paul Weiss, 26, of Temple, at Tradinghouse Lake on Nov. 4 before he allegedly shot and killed Martinez and her daughter.
Weiss, who reportedly had a sexual relationship with Martinez while he was married, was arrested in Temple two days after the bodies of the mother and her daughter were found. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara called the killings “cold-blooded” and said the deaths were “truly heart-breaking.”
Authorities arrested Weiss on a charge of capital murder. He remains in McLennan County Jail with a bond listed at $1 million, but he has yet to be indicted on the charge.