Deputy wounded in Wimberley 'ambush'

Deputies at the scene. DAILY RECORD PHOTO BY GARY ZUPANCIC

A Wimberley resident with no clear history of violence or anti-police sentiments is believe to have called in a fake burglary report early Friday morning, then ambushed four Hays County Sheriff's Office vehicles that responded, wounding one deputy.

The deputies returned fire, after which the suspect, 26-year-old Rocky Miles West, was found dead. The officer, 28-year-old Benjamin Gieselman, was wounded and airlifted to an Austin hospital where he is recovering from injuries not described as life-threatening.

“Our initial impressions are that a suspect was attempting to ambush police officers,” District Attorney Wes Mau said in a press conference later Friday morning. “It's an ongoing investigation...we're going to wait for the results of the investigation before making a final determination.”

Sheriff Gary Cutler said the 911 call now believed to have been placed by West came in at 3:47 a.m. reporting “a man with a gun possibly breaking into Jean's Antiques,” which is located on Ranch Road 12 on Wimberley's south side. He said dispatch further informed the four officers responding “that the caller was possibly a resident that lived above the antique shop” who was known to deputies.

When everything seemed secure at the antique shop, Cutler said the deputies headed up Spoke Hollow Road, which branches off RR 12 near the shop.

It's there they were fired on. Cutler said just as they topped the hill, the suspect opened fire from behind a rock wall along the side of the roadway. Three of the patrol vehicles were hit and Gieselman had injuries from buckshot from his neck on down. Cutler said as of the time of the press conference, nine shotgun shells had been recovered — meaning that if the weapon was “plugged” as required by law, West reloaded twice.

He also said he feels sure West died from the deputies' fire, instead of a self-inflicted wound, “but that would still have to be determined as part of the ongoing investigation.”

Cutler said the deputies had body mics and body cameras and the data they contain will be an important part of the investigation. A door on one of the patrol vehicle was so riddled, he said, that they plan to use it in training.

“I want to assure the residents of Wimberley that it is safe. We do have the shooter and we feel the area is safe,” Cutler said, adding that “it could have been a whole lot worse.” He praised the response and action of the deputies involved, and noted that just last week they had undergone night training.

The scene of the firefight was remote and “pitch black,” with no street lights or other type of illumination.

Online records indicate that West had been in and out of Hays County Jail eight times, most recently early this year. He was arrested Jan. 31 on a family violence charge, then released March 9 after posting $4,000 bond. Prior arrests were for misdemeanor drug possession and traffic offenses. He had one state jail felony charge of theft in May 2015.

Mau said the Texas Rangers have been called in to assist, “to give a separate set of eyes on everything.”

Cutler said his deputies and Rangers were expected to be on the scene the rest of the day Friday.

Gieselman was a four-year veteran, having joined the HCSO in 2013.

 

 

San Marcos Daily Record

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