- Nolan Hicks
- Mark Wilson American-Statesman Staff
Court documents filed in Hays County on Monday identify 51-year-old Stewart Thomas Mettz as the man San Marcos police were trying to arrest when an officer was shot and killed.
The arrest warrant affidavits say Mettz faced a family violence assault charge after his wife and mother-in-law reported on Nov. 26 that he had assaulted both of them.
Mettz is also identified in public records as the owner of the property in the El Camino Real subdivision where officer Kenneth Copeland, 58, was shot and killed Monday while serving the warrants.
Authorities confirmed Tuesday Mettz is the man who they believe fatally shot Copeland. San Marcos police have issued an arrest warrant for Mettz though he has not been charged yet with Copeland’s death, officials said.
The affidavits say Mettz and his wife have been married for seven years, and his mother-in-law has lived with them for roughly a year and a half.
The mother-in-law told police Mettz became angry on Nov. 25 because she was in his room. She said he grabbed her by the shirt and neck and pulled her out of the room, the affidavit says.
According to the report, the women told investigators that Mettz said, “You had better not file charges or you know what will happen.”
While she was questioned, police noticed red marks and scratches on her chest, the document says.
Mettz’s wife also reported being assaulted on Aug. 30, and she told police Mettz had physically attacked her and her mother on several other occasions.
The women told police “they have never reported any previous incidents because they are scared of Stewart,” the affidavit says.
Mettz, known to his neighbors as Tom, largely kept to himself in the quiet San Marcos subdivision of single-story homes with stone facades and wood siding.
On the outside, the house where police arrived to serve the warrant on Monday afternoon seemed like the perfect property – it even won “yard of the month” several times, according to a neighbor who spoke to the American-Statesman but declined to give her name.
“On the inside, it was a house of horrors,” she said. “It was a bomb waiting to happen.”
Mettz moved into the house, on a corner lot of the subdivision, about three years ago. Until Monday, he was known as a man who mostly kept to himself and for his immaculately manicured front yard, which prominently featured a tall flag pole with an American flag hoisted on it, according to neighbors.
Neighbors described him as a veteran but were unsure what service he had been in. A picture of him wearing a U.S. Army uniform was posted to his Facebook page, and property tax records show he claimed an exemption for veterans.
“It’s kind of amazing, he lived 30 feet away and (I) didn’t really know them,” said Clark Moreland, 26, who lives across the street and a couple of homes down from Mettz. He said they’d talked maybe a dozen times in the roughly three years since Mettz moved in.
“He was nice enough,” Moreland said. “Anytime we’d be working out in the yard, he’d come by and say hi.”
The two, Moreland said, bonded a bit over their shared love of guitars. The man he knew as Tom, he said, had just bought a Gibson guitar.
But, even then, there was a distance.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know his name until I was talking to a couple of neighbors,” he said.
A few more doors down, Tammy Barham, 46, was shocked by Monday’s shooting.
“It’s not something that you’d expect to happen in the suburbs of San Marcos,” the Navy veteran and former teacher said.
Barham said she’d met and talked with Mettz just a couple of times.
“He wouldn’t talk to anybody really,” she said. “I’d say hi and he’d just grunt.”
“He never seemed incredibly friendly,” she added.
Barham said she heard the gunshots on Monday but didn’t initially think much of them: There’s pasture land nearby that hunters use.
Still, she said, “it’s a quiet neighborhood.”
Texas Department of Public Safety records show no prior criminal convictions for Mettz. Caldwell County court records, however, show that he was charged with criminal trespass with a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor, after he was caught hunting on private property on Dec. 12, 2016.
A deputy detained Mettz and found that he’d been issued a criminal trespass warning for the same property the year before, an arrest affidavit said.
Court records show that charge was dismissed on July 20.
As neighbors came to grips with the violent encounter that had unfolded Monday in their community, authorities continued their investigation into Copeland’s slaying. Officials said he was the first San Marcos police officer killed in the line of duty.
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau said Tuesday that the investigation is in its early stages, and that the shooting suspect was still in an Austin hospital.
Police on Monday said the man was being treated for gunshot wounds, but they did not say whether the injuries were self-inflicted or from officers’ weapons.
“I obviously want to find out about as much as we can before we make any decisions about how we go forward,” Mau said.
Mau said the suspect won’t be arraigned until he is released from the hospital. The suspect will be charged with capital murder of a peace officer, police records show.
On Tuesday, the San Marcos law enforcement community still struggled to cope with Copeland’s death.
Daniel Arredondo, past president of the San Marcos Police Officers Association, called Copeland a shining star in the Police Department.
“He always brightened everybody’s day,” Arredondo said. He described Copeland – who is survived by his wife, Sheila, and sons Nile, Noah, James and Jonah – as a devoted father.
“All he ever did was talk about his kids,” Arredondo said. “Being a police officer was secondary to him being all about his kids.”
Copeland also left a deep impression on the PromiseLand Church in San Marcos, where he had worked part-time providing security for the last few years.
“What was so neat was that even though he was here to do a job, he would connect personally with folks here,” said Robin Steele, the church’s senior pastor. “Our congregation is taking it hard because they would see him every week, every few weeks, and they built a bond with him.”
“That’s why it’s tough,” he added.
Police stood watch outside of Copeland’s New Braunfels home Tuesday, protecting the family’s privacy as they grieved.
“Ken was a wonderful man, a family man,” said Gary Wittenborn, 76, who lives across the street from the Copelands’ house. “He always had a smile for everybody.”
Wittenborn said he’d known Copeland for about two decades.
“He was just a very fine man,” he added. “It’s a great loss.”
Teresa Payne, who lives three doors down, echoed the sentiment.
“He’s a wonderful person,” she said. “He would do anything to help out his neighbors.”
“Everyone loved him,” she added.
Before joining the San Marcos police in 1998, Copeland worked as a corrections officer at a state prison in Huntsville from 1982 to 1988, and in Santa Clara County, Calif., from 1988 to 1990. He also served as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy from 1990 to 1995, and was a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, according to San Marcos police.