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Police report

Waco police are investigating a fatal shooting of a man in the 2900 block of South Fourth Street on Tuesday afternoon, 24 hours after a nonfatal shooting across town.

The Waco Police Department responded to a call at 3:10 p.m. from a Baylor University employee who reported finding a man’s body while driving down Fourth Street. Police Chief Ryan Holt said the victim was lying in the middle of the street adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery when officers arrived. He said police have not yet been able to identify the man.

“There’s only one neighbor on the street,” Holt said. “We talked to people who were in the cemetery. Descriptions have been vague so far.”

The man had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and about 10 shell casings surrounded the body, Waco Police Sgt. John Allovio said.

“This is pretty much a Baylor housing area now for rentals,” Allovio said. “This person isn’t going to be a Baylor student. It doesn’t look like it was a random act.”

Allovio said some neighbors heard gunshots but did not see the shooting.

“We arrived at the scene and confirmed he was not alive and began an investigation,” Allovio said. “He had no identification on him, no personal information of any kind.”

The fatal shooting comes about 24 hours after a shooting Monday afternoon at the Villages of Waco apartments, 1100 N. Sixth St. Police have identified a suspected shooter and are searching for him.

One man shot another in the “lower extremities” after an altercation at the apartment complex, Allovio said Monday evening. The man who was shot is expected to survive. He was in serious but stable condition Monday.

Police found the man, whose identity has not been released, in a private vehicle at 17th Street and Waco Drive.

Allovio said he is not aware of any connection between Tuesday’s shooting and Monday’s shooting. “I actually worked the shooting yesterday and I don’t see any connection between the two,” Allovio said.

Crash fatality

A 73-year-old Axtell man driving a tractor-trailer died Tuesday morning after a tire blew out, causing his vehicle to cross into the opposite lane of traffic, hit an SUV and overturn, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Michael Nelson was pronounced dead at the scene, DPS Sgt. Ryan Howard said in an email. Nelson’s family has been notified.

Nelson was driving a Freightliner semi south on U.S. Highway 77, near Farm-to-Market Road 2643, at about 6:40 a.m. Tuesday when a tire blew out, Howard said. Nelson lost control of the truck and crossed into the opposite lane of traffic, crashing into the front left side of a Ford SUV, he said.

The Freightliner continued forward, left the roadway, overturned and became fully engulfed in flames, Howard said. The driver of the Ford was transported to a local hospital in critical condition.

According to DPS, drivers should ensure their tires have correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and alignment to remain safe while driving because they are the only part of the vehicle that has direct contact with the road.

Sheriff’s bad break

Falls County Sheriff Ricky Scaman did not let a broken arm stop him from arresting a fugitive Saturday night.

Scaman, who has been sheriff for about three years, went looking for Danny Ray Sadler, 38, late Saturday because the man had violated his parole and had a felony warrant out for his arrest, he said.

Sadler previously had been convicted of assault on a public servant but had violated the conditions of his parole. Scaman said he was not sure how Sadler had violated his parole.

“He had already made statements that he wouldn’t be taken in without a fight,” Scaman said Tuesday.

Scaman located Sadler near his residence in Marlin on Saturday around 11 p.m., but when Sadler saw the sheriff he started fleeing.

“Once I found him, I couldn’t wait for backup,” Scaman said.

Scaman took off after Sadler, as another deputy arrived and Tased the fugitive. As they were attempting to arrest Sadler, he continued fighting the sheriff and deputy, which resulted in Scaman’s arm breaking.

In 26 years as a peace officer, Scaman said he has never broken a bone before. He will remain on light duty for the next six to eight weeks.

Now, Sadler is in the Falls County Jail, with another charge of assaulting a public servant pending, Scaman said. No bond has been set.

Pending a parole hearing, Sadler could be sent back to prison for violating his parole, Scaman said.

Surgeon to pursue role as local Republican chairman
 Mike Copeland  / 


Waco surgeon Dr. Brad Holland, a longtime Republican party activist, will run to become McLennan County Republican Party chairman when the primary election rolls around in March, Holland said Tuesday.

The current chairman, retired Army Col. Jon Ker, has announced his intention to step down when he completes his second term in June.

Ker hopes to run for a position on the State Republican Executive Committee from Senate District 22, which stretches across 11 counties, including McLennan, and is represented by Brian Birdwell of Granbury, Holland said via email.

In a press release, Holland, 48, a Colorado native who moved to Texas in 1993 to attend medical school, said Republicans have a fight on their hands against “dangerous people and ideas gaining more and more attention.”

“People are actually advocating socialism,” he wrote in the press release.

Holland, a board-certified head and neck surgeon, has practiced in Waco 17 years. He is vice chair of the McLennan County Republican Party, and is a past chairman of the McLennan County Republican Club. He has been a precinct chair for many years and has twice served as chairman of the McLennan County Republican Convention, according to his press release.

The county chairman for the party is responsible for holding the primary election, staffing of election judges, and conducting the county and precinct conventions. The chairman also oversees educational, social and philanthropic events with the local party, and assists party candidates.

In a phone interview, Holland said Republicans can take nothing for granted as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

“We’re going to fight for everything we get, with elbow grease and new ideas,” he said. “My number one priority is getting out the vote. We will use an infusion of technology and, frankly, some infrastructure improvements to target voters and become a well-oiled machine in McLennan County. We hope to get voters to the polls in a digital way. Absolutely, 2020 is a big election. We hope to contribute to the success of all Republican candidates.”

Holland said President Donald Trump, in his opinion, continues to enjoy a solid base of support among Republicans. He said running against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination “would be futile.”

He said Republicans should, and will, maintain a united front.

“Our concern is not about in-fighting, but about outright socialists and their stances, their bashing of what a large swath of this country believes,” Holland said.

Immigration and border security must remain priorities, and Washington, D.C., remains a corrupt swamp in need of draining, he said.

The decision by U.S. Rep. Bill Flores not to seek re-election may serve to generate more interest in local elections among Republicans who may not previously have considered running for Flores’ seat, he said.

Flores, a Bryan Republican, represents a district that includes McLennan County.

“With Democrats moving increasingly to the left, I am confident we can form a coalition of support for Republicans. … We have to do more to keep Republicans in the majority locally, and I think we are up to the task,” Holland said.

Holland and his wife, Amanda, have four children and live in Waco.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file  


Police: Texas gunman was violent at psychiatric facility

DALLAS — The gunman who killed seven people in West Texas over Labor Day weekend was hospitalized nearly two decades ago at a psychiatric facility, where he punched a hole in a wall and menaced security staff with a piece of pipe pried from a toilet before being arrested, according to police.

Seth Ator was being treated in July 2001 at an in-patient facility in Waco, about 105 miles (169 kilometers) south of Dallas, when he became so violent that staff called the police, Assistant Chief Robert Lanning said Wednesday.

The next month, Ator, then 18, tried to break into a woman's bedroom after threatening to kill her brother, according to arrest reports obtained by The Associated Press. A day after the attempted break-in, he jumped from a second-floor window to evade authorities but was eventually taken into custody and back to the hospital, where staff determined he had "suicidal tendencies," the documents show.

It is unclear whether the events nearly two decades ago in Waco and the suburb of Lorena have any bearing on the Aug. 31 mass shooting that stretched from Midland to Odessa, some 350 miles (563 kilometers) away. It also is unknown whether the hospitalization affected a federal background check that a law enforcement official said blocked Ator from buying a gun in 2014 because of a "mental health issue."

But an interview with Waco police and reports from the McLennan County Sheriff's Office portray a young man who was deeply troubled 18 years before authorities say he opened fire in a rolling rampage that spanned 10 miles (16 kilometers). They emphasize a long history of alarming and threatening behavior that did not, ultimately, prevent Ator from obtaining an assault-style rifle.

Officers killed Ator, 36, outside a busy Odessa movie theater after shootings that lasted more than an hour and injured around two dozen people in addition to the dead.

Asked about Ator's 2001 arrest, the FBI declined to comment on its investigation into the shooting.

Investigators are looking into how Ator obtained the rifle he used despite failing a background check. Last week, they searched the home of a man in Lubbock, who they believe was involved in the "transfer" of the weapon, a federal law enforcement official previously told the AP. The official said federal agents are investigating whether the Lubbock man has been manufacturing firearms but that there have been no arrests.

Through high school, Ator moved between schools in the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo and Lorena. He was set to graduate in 2001 but dropped out the preceding November to enroll in a GED program, Lorena Independent School District Superintendent Joe Kucera said in a statement.

The following summer, a family in Lorena, a community with a population of about 1,700 people, had a "series of problems" with Ator based on his "relationship" with their daughter, according to the sheriff's reports obtained through a public records request. The AP is not naming the family because attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.

In July 2001, the mother of the family told a deputy that Ator threatened to kill her son. Two days later, Waco police were called to the psychiatric facility after Ator became so combative and destructive that some staff locked themselves in a nursing station out of fear, Lanning, the assistant chief, said after reviewing reports from the incident. The AP has filed a public records request for the documents.

Lanning said Ator was charged with criminal mischief, but the police records don't indicate why he was initially taken to the psychiatric facility or if he had been committed. Officials with Ascension Providence hospital, where Ator was arrested, have not responded to questions.

"I don't know that he was admitted or diagnosed," Lanning said. "In this particular instance, it appears, that before they really had a chance to do anything, he became destructive and so they sent him to jail."

Federal law stipulates a limited number of reasons why someone would be prohibited from buying or having a gun. Among them are if the person has been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison, has a substance abuse addiction, was dishonorably discharged from the military, was convicted of domestic violence or was the subject of a restraining order, or if they have been involuntarily committed for a mental health issue.

FBI records show that in 2018 more than 26 million background checks were conducted, and fewer than 100,000 people failed. The vast majority of those denied were for a criminal conviction. Just over 6,000 were rejected for a mental health issue.

In August of 2001, Ator tried to break into the bedroom of the family's daughter around 3:30 a.m., removing a window screen "in an attempt to contact her," according to the reports. The daughter told Detective Mylie Hudson that she woke up and then saw Ator driving away in his father's vehicle.

The AP's attempts to reach Ator's parents were unsuccessful.

The next day, officers found Ator locked inside a bedroom at a Waco apartment where his friends lived. As the officers knocked on the door and tried to get Ator to unlock it, he opened a bedroom window and jumped to the ground two stories below, the reports state. Hudson wrote that he and other officers searched the apartment complex's grounds but could not find Ator.

The following day, the reports state, officers arrested Ator at another building for criminal trespass and a "suicide threat." He was then taken to a local emergency room.

Staff at the hospital's psychiatric facility evaluated Ator, and an officer at the county jail was informed of his "suicidal tendencies" when he was moved to the jail that day, according to the reports. Ator's parents also told deputies their son had threatened and tried to take his own life, the reports say.

Ator eventually pleaded guilty to evading arrest and criminal trespass. Court records indicate he was ordered to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings as part of his probation. It is unclear what became of the criminal mischief charge.

A prosecutor and the attorneys who represented Ator did not respond to requests for comment. The misdemeanors themselves would not have prevented Ator from legally purchasing firearms in Texas.

Hudson, the now-retired sheriff's deputy who investigated Ator, told the AP he remembers few specifics about dealing with the man in 2001.

"He just came across as being a nut who didn't want to take no for an answer," said Hudson, 74. "Obviously he had problems back at that time."