HOUSTON -- Rigo Cisneros was at home Monday with his wife on Fidelity Street near Texas A&M University when he heard a strange sound.
At first, the Army medic thought it was construction noise, common in the historic neighborhood of older homes in the town of College Station, Texas.
“I stuck my head out the door and could hear it was gunfire,” Cisneros, 40, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
He called 911. Then he did what many wouldn’t dare to do — he went back outside to try to help.
“That’s when I saw an officer was pinned down behind a vehicle,” he said.
Cisneros told his wife to hide behind the refrigerator and call 911 again while he "went out to see if there was anything in the world I could do."
He recorded a video of the scene that shows police officers with weapons drawn closing in on a white, one-story home across the street.
“Do not move! Do not move!” an officer yells, “If you move, you are dead!”
Cisneros, an East Los Angeles native who joined the Army 18 years ago, had served in Afghanistan and been trained to handle combat situations. He could see one officer trading fire with someone in a house across the street, a property that he said had changed hands many times.
Cisneros realized it wasn’t safe for him to run out and aide the downed officer, a local constable who he later learned was shot when he came to serve an eviction notice.
“The shooter kept coming out and shooting at the officers. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t get to the police officer,” he said.
So he waited outside for about 20 minutes as the gunfire continued and more police arrived. Each time the shooter fired, he could see him emerge in profile to point the barrel of a long gun. Police on Tuesday said they recovered several pistols and rifles from the suspect’s house.
“That poor officer was pinned down and all they could do was shoot over his head,” he said.
Eventually, police shot the suspect and approached the constable.
“I kept requesting permission to go, and finally some officers working on him waved me over,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros started administering CPR with one of the assisting officers, but Brazos County Constable Bryan Bachman, 41, was unresponsive. He had been shot in the chest.
Paramedics arrived and Cisneros turned his attention to the suspect, who was conscious. Cisneros could see the man had been shot several times. Bullets had passed through the fleshy part of his left armpit, through his thigh and left foot without causing much damage. But a wound in his abdomen was darkening with bruises, a sign of internal bleeding.
The man, later identified as Thomas Caffall, 35, gave Cisneros a message for the constable he had attacked:
“He asked me to tell the officer he had shot that he was sorry,” Cisneros said.
But it was too late. Bachmann was dead. Soon after, the gunman died, too, as did a passerby, a 43 year-old man caught in the crossfire.
Three other officers were wounded, including an officer shot in the calf. Another passerby, 51 year-old Barbara Holdsworth of Houston, was shot and still hospitalized Tuesday in serious condition, officials said.
Cisneros was grateful that when the shooting erupted his 2-year-old daughter was at daycare. But as a father, he can’t stop thinking about Bachmann, who had a wife and family.
Investigators have yet to release information about the gunman's motive. According to Texas court records, Caffall was arrested in 2006 for driving with an invalid license and pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. His mother told the Huffington Post that Caffall had struggled with mental health problems.
In the aftermath of the shooting Cisneros said he felt like the evil in the world crept a little closer to what he had figured was a safe haven. On Tuesday his neighborhood was still cordoned off by police, who escorted him in and and out at first, then ordered him to leave.
“It’s pointless. The constable had an eviction notice. It’s a house, you can’t possibly get anything out of that situation. It’s senseless,” Cisneros said. “Right now it’s kind of like hold on and ride through it.”
But his real frustration goes back to the long minutes he spent waiting and watching Bachmann pinned down by gunfire, unable to help.
“I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t go to the patient, an officer that was down,” Cisneros said. “That still bugs me.”
For the record, Aug. 16, 4:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that Rigo Cisneros saw two officers trading fire with a gunman holed up in a house in College State, Texas. Cisneros could only see one officer.
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