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Three killed in shootings near Texas A&M University

The dead include a county constable and the gunman in violence that stuns the usually serene town of College Station.

August 14, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
  • Friends and family of Constable Brian Bachmann, who was killed by a gunman while serving an eviction notice, gather at a church in College Station, Texas.
Friends and family of Constable Brian Bachmann, who was killed by a gunman… (Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle )

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Just after noon Monday, Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann embarked on a seemingly routine chore — serving an eviction notice in a pleasant neighborhood a few blocks from Texas A&M University.

But a man at the house on Fidelity Street opened fire, killing Bachmann, 41. That triggered a 30-minute shootout with police that left the gunman and a bystander dead in an outbreak of violence that shocked this serene college town.

Police killed the gunman, but not before he shot and killed a 43-year-old man and wounded a 55-year-old woman. An officer who responded to a 911 call about the constable was wounded in the leg.

During confused and chaotic early reports, fears arose that College Station would join Aurora, Colo., and Oak Creek, Wis., in the latest spasm of shooting rampages by lone gunmen. Texas A&M issued a "code maroon" warning on its website, stating that an "active shooter" was in the area.

"It's pretty surreal to happen in a small town like this," Nicole McMurrer, 20, a Texas A&M junior, said a few hours later, peering over yellow police tape near her home a few blocks from the shooting scene.

Police identified the gunman as Thomas Caffall, 35, and said they knew of no motive. Caffall appeared to have no serious criminal record. According to court records, in 2006 he pleaded no contest to driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor.

A man listed as Thomas Caffall on Facebook wrote that he was from Bryan, Texas, and lived in adjacent College Station. The profile photo appears to be the man shown in Caffall's driver's license photo, which police released.

Caffall's wall photos include snapshots of guns.

"Just picked it up today, can't wait to try it out on the range," he posted on June 7, 2011, referring to a gun.

Next to a photo of a gun labeled "gunbroker.com Geranimo," he posted on May 24, 2011: "I won an auction. This will be coming to me soon. I can't wait to try it out."

In a May 13, 2011, post, Caffall wrote: "I just got a new toy! It's a Russian Mosin Nagant ... I'll be at the gun range as much as I can."

Caffall described himself as a divorced Christian. "I am pulling a cross between Forrest Gump and Jack Kerouac (without the drugs). I'm on the road, permanently," he posted.

According to his Facebook page, Caffall's mother attended high school in Bryan, and his brother graduated from nearby Navasota High School. His sister is listed as a College Station resident.

The sister, reached by phone late Monday, said the family was reeling.

"We're just shocked," said Courtney Graham Clark of College Station. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who were affected by this senseless tragedy."

Caffall's Facebook page includes quotes from Emily Dickinson, George Orwell and Winston Churchill.

In his profile picture, he hugs a gray and black dog named Lucy.

George Clemenceau, 20, a classmate of McMurrer who was visiting her during the shootout, said he could hear whizzing as bullets passed by.

He saw a man lying flat on the ground who appeared to have been shot in the back.

A thought struck Clemenceau: "That was someone like me that was just out on the street."

Two officers who rushed to the house after the constable was shot were fired on by the gunman, said Scott McCollum, assistant chief of the College Station Police Department. The officers "took cover and defended themselves," he said, killing the gunman.

Officer Justin Oehlke, who was shot in the leg, was out of surgery and stable late Monday, according to police spokeswoman Rhonda Seaton.

Officer Brad Smith was treated and released for shrapnel wounds, Seaton said, as was Officer Phil Dorsett.

Police identified the dead bystander as Chris Northcliff.

The identity of the wounded 55-year-old woman was not released. Seaton said she was hospitalized in serious condition, upgraded from critical.

Kali Davis, 20, a Texas A&M junior from Midland, was standing in a sorority sister's driveway when she heard gunfire.

"We all thought it was fireworks because there were so many — just pow, pow, pow," said Davis, who lives on Fidelity Street about a block from the shooting scene.

A woman who lives around the corner was shot in the back, she said. "It's a small town — you wouldn't think this would happen," Davis said.

The neighborhood is popular among students because it's a low-crime area within walking distance of campus and the football field. Several residents said the house where the shooting occurred appeared to have been vacant.

McMurrer and Clemenceau, the Texas A&M students, said they were shocked to witness violent crime in College Station. Here students, known as Aggies, are encouraged to greet people with a heartfelt "Howdy."

"It's just such a friendly environment. It doesn't belong here. Houston, maybe, but not here," Clemenceau said. "That's why I'm in disbelief. I could have been hit. That's a scary thought — that could have been us."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

david.zucchino@latimes.com

Hennessy-Fiske reported from College Station and Zucchino from North Carolina.

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