More details emerged Thursday about the on-duty slaying of Hutto police Sgt. Chris Kelley, including that two officers witnessed the moment when the suspect ran over Kelley after taking control of his patrol car.
An affidavit for the arrest of Colby Ray Williamson, 26, describes the events before and after Kelley’s death in the line of duty Wednesday, including statements from two Hutto police sergeants who saw Williamson drive the patrol vehicle over Kelley and statements from an investigator’s interview with Williamson.
Texas Rangers have arrested and charged Williamson with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer. He remained in the Williamson County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $1 million.
According to the affidavit and Wednesday’s statements, Hutto police attempted to pull over Williamson near Herrera Trail about 10 a.m. Wednesday, though authorities still have not explained why police were trying to stop him. Williamson fled from officers in a Mitsubishi Eclipse before he crashed into a fire hydrant in front of a home in the 200 block of Herrera Trail.
Williamson then ran away until Kelley, 37, found him near a home on Wren Cove, according to affidavits.
At Williamson County Jail, Williamson agreed to waive his rights and told a Texas Rangers investigator that he knew Kelley was a police officer, even though Kelley was in plainclothes.
Kelley told Williamson that he was going to detain him, the suspect said his statement. The officer attempted to handcuff Williamson when Williamson used his body to throw Kelley off balance and cause the officer to fall down.
Williamson ran to Kelley’s patrol vehicle and got into the driver’s seat. Kelley followed and tried to stop him from driving off, Williamson said in his statement.
Around that time, Hutto police Sgt. Conor Mitchell and Sgt. Paul Leal arrived at the scene. Mitchell said he saw Kelley struggling with Williamson in the driver’s seat of Kelley’s patrol vehicle.
Williamson told the investigator he put the car into reverse as Kelley grabbed the steering wheel and stepped on the brakes. Kelley then fell down as Williamson accelerated in reverse.
It was then that both officers witnessed Kelley fall from the open door, watching as the vehicle ran over his body.
Leal jumped out of the police car and performed CPR on Kelley, while Mitchell continued to chase Williamson, the sergeants said. The vehicle pursuit continued down Decker Drive to the intersection with Creek Lodge Drive, where Williamson jumped out of the patrol vehicle and ran. Mitchell followed in his car, but left the vehicle to pursue Williamson on foot and eventually apprehended him.
Paramedics rushed Kelley to Seton Medical Center Williamson in Round Rock, where he was pronounced dead.
Williamson is charged with a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. When contacted Thursday, Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty said it was “too early” to comment on whether she might seek a capital murder indictment against Williamson.
“We will review all of our options when all the evidence is in,” Duty said.
Central Texas’ tightly knit law enforcement community continued to mourn Kelley’s death Thursday, with a motorcade escorting his body as it was moved from the Travis County medical examiner’s office to an Pflugerville funeral home. The Hutto community also came together for a vigil at Fritz Park to honor him Thursday night.
Family members of Williamson interviewed at a North Austin home said they were also suffering. They had not spoken to Williamson since his arrest, garnering all their information from media reports, they said.
Those reports do not show who Williamson is, they said.
“Let’s just put it this way: He is not the person that is being portrayed in media,” said a woman who refused to give her name, but said she represented Williamson’s family. “Both families lost something near and dear, and that’s all I have to say.”
A manager at Bombay Bistro on Research Boulevard who declined to give his name said Williamson had a “good rapport” with all the customers while he worked there for six months as a waiter about a year ago.
The manager said Williamson had called him about a month ago asking for his job back because he had just become the father of a baby boy.
Arrest records showed Round Rock police arrested and charged Williamson with driving with an invalid license on May 6, 2014. Court records from the arrest also show that he was living with his grandmother in Austin and paying her $200 a month in rent. The case is still pending.
In Travis County, records show police arrested Williamson three times in 2007 on two charges of possession of marijuana and one charge of driving while intoxicated. Police arrested him again in 2009 on a charge of driving while intoxicated.
All of the 2007 charges were dismissed, though records showed Williamson served jail time and underwent community supervision for the 2009 DWI charge.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Christina Kane-Gibson, a spokeswoman for the city of Hutto, declined to comment on whether police officers are required to lock their vehicles after leaving them to pursue a suspect.
Six law enforcement officers, including Kelley, have died in Texas in the line of duty this year, said Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
Whether or not Kelley left his car unlocked to pursue Williamson doesn’t matter, Wilkison said. “All the second-guessing in the world is not going to do a damn bit of good,” he said.
“You’re not supposed to fight with an officer; you’re not supposed to take control of their car; and you’re not supposed to murder them. The only thing that matters is that someone murdered a policeman. There’s no excuse for it,” Wilkison said.
Under most circumstances, deputies with the Williamson County sheriff’s office lock their vehicles when they leave them, said Fred Thomas, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
“If immediate action is required to include a traffic stop, a citizen assist, a pursuit, shots being fired, an immediate lifesaving event, or other exigent circumstances exist, taking the time to shut off the engine and lock the doors may not be prudent,” Thomas said in a statement Thursday. “It would be difficult to write a protocol for each possible situation.”
Hutto Police Department is accredited by the Texas Police Chiefs Association, a group that requires many police departments to adopt standard policing policies. However, it has no policy regarding foot pursuits or when an officer should lock a patrol vehicle.
Officers killed while on duty in Central Texas:
Fifty-eight police officers have died while on duty in Travis, Bastrop, Williamson and Hays Counties since 1870, the earliest date recorded for those four counties by the nonprofit organization Officer Down Memorial Page. Twenty-eight of them died after 1949. The most common cause of death was gunfire. This is the breakdown by county:
Travis County: 32
Bastrop County: 6
Hays County: 3
Williamson County: 17
— Samantha Matsumoto, American-Statesman
Services for Sgt. Chris Kelley:
Visitation is set for Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cook Walden-Capital Parks in Pfulgerville, 14501 North Interstate 35.
Services will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Shoreline Church at 15201 Burnet Road in North Austin. Police honors will immediately follow the service at the church.
A private burial service will be held at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard providing honors.
— Philip Jankowski, American-Statesman