Austin police on Thursday said a former policy analyst at the Legislature is a suspect in the fatal shooting of a man at a South Austin apartment complex Monday and in a shooting rampage Wednesday that left two women injured.
Charles Curry, 29, was arrested about 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Post South Lamar apartment complex at 1500 S. Lamar Blvd. Curry has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and police said they plan to file a murder charge against him in connection with Monday’s death of 32-year-old Christian Meroney.
Residents at the mixed-use development had been on edge since Meroney’s death Monday, wondering whether they were in danger while the shooter was on the loose.
“A lot of the girls said they couldn’t sleep these past two days,” said tenant Victoria Celis, who said she had seen police surrounding Meroney’s body in the apartment’s hallway after he was shot dead Monday.
When police vehicles and officers wearing tactical gear once again flooded the property Wednesday, their fears seemed to have been validated.
For hours, police rummaged around the building along the bustling stretch of South Lamar Boulevard, hunting for evidence to tie Curry to five shootings across the Austin area on Wednesday.
The first one happened about 2:06 p.m. on the service road of Interstate 35 between William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane. Assistant Police Chief Joe Chacon said a 33-year-old woman driving with three children in her vehicle was hit in the head by a bullet. The woman was taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with serious injuries that weren’t expected to be life-threatening, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services said.
The second shooting happened shortly afterward in the 5300 block of Ponciana Drive, and a third one followed at the Post South Lamar apartments, Chacon said. No injuries were reported in either of those incidents.
In the fourth shooting at the 4000 block of South Lamar, however, a 25-year-old woman was injured by glass that sprayed into her face after a bullet crashed through one of her vehicle’s windows, Chacon said. The bullet did not strike her, he said.
“It appears that the bullet entered the vehicle and went right behind the driver’s head,” Chacon said.
That last shooting in Austin happened about 2:35 p.m., but around 5 p.m., authorities in Travis County received a call about a man shooting a firearm in the 6300 block of Bob Wentz Park Road near Lake Travis, Chacon said. The shooter appeared to be the same person involved in the earlier shootings, he said.
Investigators believe the shooter fired at his victims as he drove. Victims, witnesses and surveillance footage taken near the scene of the first shooting helped police identify the vehicle the shooter was driving as a white Chevrolet Tahoe, Chacon said. Detectives confirmed that Curry was the vehicle’s registered owner, he said.
Chacon said investigators looking into similarities between Wednesday’s shootings and Monday’s slaying conducted ballistics tests on the bullets they found in each case and determined that they all came from the same gun.
Members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force — a team of local, state and federal law enforcement officers tasked with running down violent fugitives — got involved in the search and found Curry about 6 p.m. at the Post South Lamar apartments, where the string of violent incidents began Monday.
Chacon would not confirm whether Curry lives at Post South Lamar, but public records list his most recent address as being on the third floor of the complex.
Chacon said police still don’t have a motive for Monday’s killing. All the shootings on Wednesday appeared to have been random, he said. No other information about what might have sparked the shooting rampage was available Thursday.
“In all four shootings (in Austin) there appears to be no signs of provocation on the part of the victims,” Chacon said.
Curry, who described himself on his LinkedIn page as having a “financial background with a current focus on politics,” has a lengthy history in Texas politics. The page listed former jobs that included campaign work for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and policy analysis for the Texas Senate. His responsibilities included canvassing for state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, and Straus, interacting with constituents and crafting policy, the page said.
Straus spokesman Jason Embry said Curry was employed by political consulting firm Murphy Nasica and never worked directly for Straus’ campaign. A spokeswoman for Larson also said Curry never worked directly for his office or campaign.
Murphy Nasica President Craig Murphy confirmed to the American-Statesman that Curry was briefly a paid contractor for the company in September 2017.
Murphy said Curry, who was involved with canvassing voters, worked for 12 days as a contractor on a trial period “and then he disappeared.”
“He said he had some sort of health issue,” said Murphy, adding that he believed it had been some sort of arthritis.
He said Curry reappeared after two weeks and “then disappeared again after 10 days.”
Curry “didn’t meet our standards and didn’t show any indication of being good at his job” during his trial period, Murphy said.
Curry also worked as a policy analyst for state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, during the 85th Texas Legislature. A spokesman for Huffman confirmed that Curry worked for her from November 2016 through May 2017 as a temporary employee during last legislative session.
On Facebook, Curry said he worked as an independent private client adviser at JP Morgan Securities LLC, an options trader at TD Ameritrade and a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
On April 25, Curry launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to lobby Texas lawmakers to relax medical marijuana laws to help those suffering from epilepsy in Texas.
Staff writers Katie Hall and Asher Price contributed to this report.