Police: San Marcos officer shot, killed while serving warrant

8:28 p.m Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 Local
Investigators work at the scene where an officer was fatally shot serving a warrant in San Marcos on Monday. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A San Marcos police officer who was working on his day off was shot and killed Monday afternoon while serving a warrant on the shooting suspect, who was wounded and taken into custody after a standoff with authorities, city officials said.

Officer Kenneth Copeland, a 58-year-old father of four and a husband who was previously in the U.S. Coast Guard, is the first San Marcos police officer to be killed in the line of duty, San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp said.

Copeland was serving a warrant at the El Camino Real subdivision when he was shot multiple times, officials said. Police did not provide the exact street where the shooting happened.

“We lost a hero today. … He knew we were short-handed and needed the help,” Stapp said.

City Manager Bert Lumbreras said San Marcos officers are devastated by Copeland’s death.

“I saw a lot of crying,” he said. “I saw people’s hearts ripped out.”

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Copeland and other officers went about 2:20 p.m. to a home in El Camino Real, near Old Bastrop Road and Guadalupe Street, to serve the warrant, Stapp said. The charge was for a violent crime, but Stapp did not provide the exact charge or the name of the shooting suspect.

“Shortly after their arrival, it appears that this individual began firing at the officers,” Stapp said. “Officer Copeland was struck several times.”

Another officer grabbed Copeland, got in a police vehicle and sped toward Central Texas Medical Center, where Copeland was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m., Stapp said.

Copeland was wearing what authorities described as a protective vest when he was shot, officials said. The bullets did not pierce his vest, but Stapp declined to share more information on Copeland’s wounds.

The officers who remained on the scene and Hays County/San Marcos SWAT formed a perimeter around the home where the shooting happened and tried to get the suspect to come out, Stapp said.

The suspect eventually came out and surrendered to officers, Stapp said. The man had gunshot wounds and was taken to an Austin hospital. It was unclear Monday whether he had been shot by police or had inflicted the injuries himself, Stapp said.

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Neighbor Tana Manners said she was stunned to learn that something like this had happened in the subdivision where she has lived for three years.

“This is a wonderful, quiet neighborhood,” she said.

San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides spoke alongside Stapp at a news conference Monday evening.

“No city is prepared for this, and we’re all mourning together,” Thomaides said. “We’ll continue to mourn even as we all get back to the business of serving our citizens. The city of San Marcos is a family business, and Officer Copeland was a member of our family. My message to our city in this time of tremendous tragedy is that we need to come together now more than ever, and I ask that all our citizens show their support for all the men and women in our public safety divisions. This is their daily reality, and I think that the best way I heard this described is this just rips your heart out. And that’s where we are now.”

Texas officials also reacted to the shooting Monday, with Gov. Greg Abbott promising that the shooter will receive “swift justice” and Attorney General Ken Paxton saying the officer’s death had left him “deeply troubled and saddened.”

This is the second officer-involved shooting in Hays County in three weeks. Last month, a Hays County sheriff’s deputy was wounded in an apparent ambush in Wimberley.

The suspect was shot and later found dead in the area. The injured officer, Deputy Benjamin Gieselman, was released from the hospital last week.