A young Texas mother was killed after a gunman opened fire during a violent rampage that left six people dead.
Sabrina Rahman, 24, had just moved into a new home with her husband and their one-year-old son a day before the attack unfolded in their South Austin neighbourhood on Tuesday.
Rahman and 32-year-old family friend Emmanuel Pop Ba, who was helping her move, were fatally shot by a gunman who has been identified as Shane James by the Austin Police Department.
Distraught family members told The Austin-American Stateman that Pop Ba was entering his vehicle to leave for lunch when he was allegedly shot by 34-year-old Mr James. Rahman, who had taken her baby for a stroller walk, saw the commotion and tried to run away, her uncle Marshall Hussain told the outlet.
“She did her last act to push the child away,” Mr Hussain said.
Neighbours alerted authorities after hearing the gunfire. Mr Hussain said that Rahman’s parents saw someone being carried inside an ambulance but did not realise it was their daughter until they saw the abandoned stroller on the street and recognised it.
Rahman was pronounced dead at the hospital, while Pop Ba died at the scene.
Pop Ba’s sister-in-law Filomena Caal Pop told the newspaper that he left behind a wife and three children.
“We came here asking for refuge in this country,” Ms Caal Pop said. “But these times have changed so much. People have lost the humanity in their hearts. Can you imagine doing this to a working man, a man who didn’t make trouble with anyone?”
Authorities believe that the deadly shooting spree on Tuesday began at the suspect’s family home in Bexar County, a county that includes San Antonio 80 miles south of Austin. Sheriff Javier Salazar said that Mr James’s parents Phyllis James, 55, and Shane Matthew James Sr, 56, were found dead in the house.
It’s believed the couple was murdered sometime between 10pm on Monday, when a sibling of the suspect last spoke with their parents, and 9am on Tuesday, when a neighbour noticed Mr James Sr’s vehicle was not in the driveway.
Sheriff Javier Salazar said his agency was only alerted about the crime scene at about 7.45pm after Austin police made a call about a suspect in two double homicides who had been linked to the San Antonio address.
Robin Henderson, Austin interim police chief, said at a news conference that James shot an Austin Independent School District police officer at about 10.45am Tuesday before he allegedly carried out Rahman and Pop Bar’s killings.
Then, a second shooting happened shortly before 5pm, when a male cyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Two hours later, an officer found a suspected burglar in the backyard of an Austral Loop home, a male suspect. The man shot at the officer and the officer returned fire, Chief Henderson said.
The officer suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was taken to a hospital. Officers went inside the residence in Austral Loop to conduct a welfare check and found two bodies.
“Two apparent victims of the suspect were located inside with fatal injuries and pronounced deceased on scene,” Chief Henderson said.
Police said the suspect, who was not hit, drove away and police pursued him. He then crashed at about 7.15pm at a highway intersection and was taken into custody. The man had a gun in his possession at the time of the arrest.
Mr James is currently being jailed at the Travis County Jail in Austin and faces charges of capital murder. He is also expected to be charged in Bexar County in the following days, Sheriff Salazar said.
The sheriff revealed on Wednesday that Mr James was arrested in January 2022 and charged with three misdemeanours for family assault after allegedly attacking a sibling and both his parents. The family reportedly told authorities that he did not belong in jail because he suffered from severe mental health issues.
“I believe that the request was made by the family members that he had nowhere to go but home,” Sheriff Salazar said. “March 7, he was released from jail. On March 8, we know that he cut his ankle monitor.”
In August, deputies responded to a mental health call at the James family’s home.
The suspect was naked and having a mental health episode but was not arrested despite his three outstanding misdemeanours because the deputies were not allowed to force entry into his room. Mr James barricaded inside his upstairs bedroom and used racial slurs as he confronted deputies trying to de-escalate the situation, Sheriff Salazar said.
The deputies left after James Sr promised to give them a call once his son left the room. Sheriff Salazar said that the father never did so.