A Texas police officer was shot and killed and two other officers were injured Saturday night in what authorities say was an ambush, KXAN-TV reports.
San Marcos officer Justin Putnam (pictured center), 31, died at the scene of the shooting, while the two other officers, Justin Mueller (left) and Franco Stewart (right), are in the hospital in critical condition after undergoing surgery.
Putnam had been with the San Marcos Police Department for five-and-a-half years.
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“We lost a fine young man, a faithful officer and a friend,” Interim Police Chief Bob Klett said of Putnam at a Sunday morning news conference. “He understood what it took to police a wonderfully diverse community like San Marcos.”
Mueller has been an officer for 10 months, previously working as a telecommunications operator for more than 11 years with the department. Stewart has worked for the department for five months and was with a different agency previously for two-and-a-half years.
Authorities identified the shooter as 46-year-old Alfredo Perez De La Cruz, although he may have had different aliases.
The officers had responded to a call just after 6 p.m. Saturday about a domestic disturbance and assault at an apartment complex in San Marcos – between Austin and San Antonio – when De La Cruz “ambushed officers with a rifle,” a police news release said.
Officers were responding to a report that De La Cruz had struck his wife and that others were inside the apartment.
“They had to make entry. As they entered he ambushed them. There was nothing they could do to escape the gunfire. He was ready for them,” Klett said of De La Cruz, who died by suicide.
Around 7:15 p.m. Saturday, police posted an urgent message on Facebook urging people to shelter in place.
Klett said in a news release that the police department is “heartbroken,” and he has asked the community for support, according to the San Marcos Daily Record.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Saturday in response to the shooting.
“Tonight’s (Saturday’s) shooting in San Marcos is a somber reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe,” Abbott said. “I am grateful for the swift action of the San Marcos Police Department in containing the threat and minimizing the loss of life. I ask all Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for the officer killed and for those injured, and for the continued safety of all law enforcement officers who protect our communities.”
The last San Marcos police officer to die in the line of duty was Kenneth Copeland, who was killed while serving a warrant in 2017.
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[Feature Photo: Justin Mueller, Justin Putnam, and Franco Stewart/San Marcos Police Department]