- Elizabeth Findell American-Statesman Staff
A Cottonwood Shores man whose family was targeted by a gunman driving along RM 1431 in Burnet County on Thursday night said he disarmed and beat unconscious the man aiming at his wife and son.
In an interview with the American-Statesman on Saturday, Johnny Henderson said he and his family are shaken but unhurt after the attack, which ended after an off-duty police officer shot and wounded the gunman and Henderson jumped him. Henderson broke his hand in the ordeal.
Henderson said the family has no idea what provoked the attack, which seemed to be tied to road rage. Authorities have not released the name of the officer involved or the 55-year-old suspect. The Burnet County sheriff’s office refused to say Saturday whether the suspect, who was hospitalized, had been arrested.
Henderson said he, his wife and their 17-year-old son were driving back to their home south of Marble Falls on Thursday after taking the high school senior to a tour for prospective students at the Art Institute of Austin. Along the way, they passed a red Camaro stopped in the road, he said.
After they passed the car, the Camaro raced up behind them, ramming the Hendersons’ Ford Explorer twice as Genice Henderson, who was driving, tried to speed up to avoid him, Johnny Henderson said. Both cars spun off the road, away from each other.
Henderson said he jumped out of the SUV and walked down the road toward the Camaro, believing it had been in a serious wreck. Another passing car stopped. Henderson exchanged a few words with the driver, not knowing then that he was an Austin police officer.
As the two men approached the Camaro, it peeled out from where it had gone off the road and went down to park alongside the Hendersons’ Explorer. Johnny Henderson said he and the off-duty officer were still at a distance when Henderson heard his wife yell, “He has a gun.”
The Camaro’s driver opened the car door, Henderson said.
“He pointed the gun at our vehicle and tried to pull the trigger,” Henderson said. “He must have had the safety on, because no bullet came out. That gave my wife and son a minute to run into the bushes. As I came up, he opened fire on my wife and son.”
At that moment, Henderson said, the driver of the other car that had stopped yelled that he was an off-duty police officer and ordered the driver of the Camaro to drop his weapon.
“I believe the shooter opened fire on the officer and they exchanged gunfire at that point,” Henderson said.
But Henderson said even after the shooter had been hit — Henderson believes in the foot and chest — he continued to crawl toward where his wife and son were hiding in the bushes. Henderson, a personal trainer and former MMA fighter and boxer, said he jumped on the shooter to stop him.
“I beat the living crap out of him and took the gun and threw it near the highway,” Henderson said. “He was unconscious when I got the gun out of him.”
Austin police said the officer who came across the scene is a 19-year veteran of the department. Henderson said he probably saved the lives of his wife and son.
Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley said Friday that the case highlights that officers are never really off duty.
“You have to be prepared to take action,” Manley said. “Had he not been on that stretch of roadway at that time, there’s really no telling what would have happened.”
Authorities previously said the suspected shooter was flown to Dell Seton Medical Center, but that his injuries were not life-threatening. Henderson was treated for a twisted ankle and a broken right hand.
Henderson said Saturday that his wife has been crying since the experience and his son has been in bed for two days. But for him, the horror feels almost surreal.
He mostly remembers the first few minutes of the ordeal, when he and the officer were both down the road and the shooting began.
“I was so scared,” he said. “I didn’t know if anyone had gotten hit.”