Ted McCloskey grew up in Austin, but he followed his love of the outdoors to West Texas, where more than a decade ago he started working for his parents at the Twistflower Ranch, a 5,800-acre hunting destination and nature retreat in Crockett County his family was trying to restore.
McCloskey was back in his hometown the night of Oct. 28, hanging out with friends at a Halloween party at a house in Central Austin when the festivities turned violent. Police say a man living at the house, Randall Jones, opened fire on the guests, killing McCloskey and wounding three others. Witnesses said McCloskey tried to calm Jones down and then subdue him when he started shooting, an arrest affidavit said.
Partygoers described McCloskey to police as a hero, but the memories of his family and friends paint a more detailed portrait.
When Ted McCloskey was about 5 years old, he and his father would go hunting together. Mike McCloskey still remembers how his son would carry his shells as they trekked through the wilderness searching for dove and quail. By the time he was 12, Ted was shooting, too.
Ted, a McCallum High School graduate who had taken some classes in mechanics and welding at ACC, worked with his father as the foreman at the Twistflower Ranch, handling day-to-day operations to keep it running smoothly. He did everything from fixing vehicles and equipment to maintaining the grounds. When the ranch had visitors, he led groups on hunts.
“He was the guide, and I was the cook,” Mike McCloskey said. “He kept all the feeders going and all the blinds ready, and helped people clean their deer if they needed it and packed it in all nice. I made sure people were all fed.”
Mike said they branched out from hunting into nature retreats and ecological tourism this year, giving photo workshops and archaeological tours of Native American sites, things Mike says most people don’t get exposed to because they don’t get out of town.
Mike McCloskey said he had no problem thinking up things he wanted to do at the ranch, but Ted McCloskey had the skills and know-how to get them done.
“He wasn’t afraid to try anything,” Mike McCloskey said. “I’ve done a lot of team-building in the past, and I know that there are starters and finishers. We were a good team because I was a good starter and he was the finisher.”
Mike McCloskey said he always told people that if his son decided to stop doing his job he wouldn’t know how he would move forward.
“He didn’t decide to stop doing it, but he stopped doing it,” Mike McCloskey said.
According to police and witnesses, he died trying to save lives. Ted McCloskey was among several people at the party who tried to get Jones to go to bed after he had become highly intoxicated and agitated. Jones continued to “crack” and drink nonstop, the affidavit said.
Ted immediately rushed Jones when he began shooting at partygoers around 6 a.m. from the doorway of his bedroom, seriously injuring two women, the affidavit said.
A witness told police that McCloskey and Jones fell back into Jones’ room and briefly struggled before three more gunshots rang out.
When the witness went to the room, he saw McCloskey on the ground with “devastating” gunshot wounds.
McCloskey, 37, was rushed to the hospital but died from his injuries that afternoon.
As police took Jones into custody, he apologized, then began shouting.
“‘I did not want this to (expletive) happen — Why did they have to (expletive) push it? — Why did they have to (expletive) go to my room! — Why did they have to go to my room?! — They’re not paying for it — Why the (expletive) do I have to deal with this?’ Jones continued, ‘I just want to go to sleep and be left alone,’” the affidavit said.
Jones was booked into the Travis County Jail on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to jail records.
A few days after losing his son, Mike McCloskey said he takes solace in knowing that Ted died defending others, but his absence still hurts.
“I just wish he hadn’t tried to be such a hero myself,” he said. “Obviously, that’s what he did. He reacted. I don’t know whether I would have predicted that he’d do that or not. I think we all wish that we had that in us.”
Ted’s father said he thinks about him and breaks down, but he tries to focus on ensuring that the legacy Ted built at the ranch endures and on making sure people see all of the beautiful work he did.
“He could really do just about anything,” said Kevin McCloskey, Ted’s brother. “He loved living out in West Texas.”
Kevin said he wasn’t surprised to hear that his brother reacted the way he did, and that he’d seen him confront bullies and stick up for others before.
“He was a big guy, and he didn’t like that type of thing in any way, shape or form,” he said.