From East Texans being arrested at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots, to extreme winter weather that caused massive power and water outages, this is a look back at the stories East Texans were most interested in this year.
STARRVILE CHURCH SHOOTING:
The pastor of an East Texas church was killed in a shooting on Jan. 3 at Starrville Methodist Church in Winona.
According to the Smith County Sheriff's Office (SCSO), the shooting took place at the church, located on Farm-to-Market Road 16. The church is more than 160-years-old.
BEFORE THE SHOOTING
On Saturday, Jan. 2, around 7:30 p.m., the Lindale Police Department (LPD) responded to several calls regarding the driver of a dark-colored passenger car near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 849 and Interstate 20. Police were told the driver, identified as Mytrez Deunte Woolen, 21, of Marshall, was pointing a gun out the sunroof of the vehicle. Police never saw the vehicle, but responded to the area when, minutes later, an SCSO deputy saw the suspect vehicle in the parking lot of the Chevron convenience store, located at 303 South Main Street in Lindale.
At this time, the deputy attempted to stop Woolen, but he drove off at a high rate of speed and a chase ensued. Officials say Woolen drove west on South Street and eventually turned east onto Farm-to-Market Road 16. He then traveled south on Farm-to-Market Road 849 before getting on Interstate 20, headed east. The chase continued on I-20 with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers joining in. The SCSO says Woolen exited onto Highway 271 before turning onto Farm-to-Market Road 757. At the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 757 and Farm-to-Market Road 16, the SCSO says Woolen's vehicle ran off the road where it came to a stop on the property of Starrville Methodist Church. Officials say Woolen got out of the vehicle and ran into the woods behind the church.
The SCSO used deputies, K-9 units and a drone as they tried to locate Woolen. After several hours, the search area was expanded as officials felt Woolen had escaped the established perimeter. The SCSO says evidence in the vehicle led officials to the suspect's identity. A shotgun was also found.
"Law enforcement personnel remained in the area for several hours in an attempt to locate the suspect," a press release from the SCSO said. "Additionally, the shotgun that had been displayed by the suspect was recovered at the scene of the crash during the pursuit."
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith believes Woolen hid in the church sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
Sunday morning, the church's pastor, Mark McWilliams, 62, of Frankston, opened a stall in the bathroom and found Woolen, the SCSO said. According to Sheriff Smith, McWilliams was armed, pointed a gun at Woolen and asked him to leave. However, Sheriff Smith says Woolen disarmed McWilliams, shot and killed him. CBS19's newspaper partner, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, confirmed the pastor's identity with law enforcement after family members had been notified. Officials say Woolen also shot a male victim who underwent surgery for non-life threatening injuries. Sheriff Smith says Woolen shot at the pastor's wife, Rosemary, but missed. However, she did sustain a shoulder injury from a fall while running away.
The SCSO says Woolen then stole the pastor's car. According to officials, the vehicle had OnStar, which was instrumental in later locating Woolen.
The Harrison County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) says the SCSO attempted to stop the vehicle in Smith County, but Woolen took off east on Interstate 20. Woolen continued driving, reaching speeds as high as 120 miles per hour on I-20, according to the HCSO.
"As they entered Harrison County, Harrison County DPS units and Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted in the pursuit of the vehicle," the HCSO said in a press release.
Once DPS units got behind the vehicle, OnStar was notified to disable the vehicle. Officials say Woolen was finally stopped at the intersection of Bomar St. and West Meredith Dr., near Price T. Young Elementary School, in Marshall. Woolen was arrested and a weapon was recovered, along with the stolen vehicle.
Woolen had a gunshot wound to the hand and was treated at a Tyler hospital. He has since been booked into the Smith County Jail on two counts of aggravated assault (aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury) and one count of capital murder. His bond has been set at $3,500,000. McWilliams' body was sent for autopsy.
Constitutionally speaking, Jan. 6 is set as a day of order, when Congress convenes to certify Electoral College votes and formally cement a president’s victory. On Jan. 6, 2021, however, order was nowhere to be found in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after former President Donald Trump addressed his supporters vowing "never to concede" the 2020 election in a speech on the Ellipse, rioters stormed the Capitol, breaching all police barricades and forcefully entering the building.
The Capitol was placed on lockdown, police ordered evacuations, and the certification of Electoral College votes, which had just begun minutes before rioters broke in, was delayed. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public emergency in D.C. and instituted a curfew through 6 a.m. Thursday. The curfew has since been lifted. Law enforcement from Virginia State Police were seen entering the District Thursday morning minutes after the curfew was lifted.
According to D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, four people died over the course of the day, including one woman who was shot by Capitol Police as a mob attempted to break into the House chamber. Two men and another woman died of medical complications, unrelated to firearms.
Jan. 6 Capitol Riots
CBS News confirmed the woman who was shot by Capitol Police is identified as 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt from San Diego, California.
WUSA9's sister station, KMFB, spoke with Babbit's husband, Aaron, who said videos he’s seen of the woman who was shot is his wife, Ashli. Her husband said Ashli went to D.C. by herself and he was supposed to pick her up from the airport on Friday.
Two pipe bombs were found outside of the RNC and DNC, and a cooler of Molotov cocktails was discovered by D.C. Police near the Capitol. More than 50 people were arrested on charges of curfew violation and possession of unlicensed weapons, and at least 14 officers were injured, with several taken to local hospitals for treatment, DC Police said.
Several hours after the riots began, President Trump tweeted a video calling for peace and telling his supporters to go home, after saying he understood their pain, calling them "very special" and reiterating unfounded claims of election fraud.
Twitter eventually removed the tweet, along with two others, and blocked the president’s access to the account for 12 hours, citing repeated violations of the platform’s civic integrity policy. Instagram later followed suit.
National Guard troops were deployed to D.C. from the District, Virginia and Maryland, after the Department of Defense initially denied additional DC National Guard troops to be sent to the Capitol, according to the DC Council. Multiple neighboring police forces also sent backup support, including Virginia and Maryland State Police and officers from Prince William, Fairfax, Arlington County and Prince George’s counties.
The Capitol was declared secure, and the lockdown lifted, just before the city’s curfew went into effect at 6 p.m.
US Park Police, DC Police and National Guard troops worked in unison to move the insurrectionists away from the Capitol Building to create a safety perimeter. Tear gas, flashbangs and percussion grenades were used to push protesters back.
A few scuffles between rioters and police broke out for the next few hours and 47 curfew-related arrests were made.
Congress reconvened shortly after 8 p.m. to continue certifying the Electoral College votes, which is ongoing.
“To the people who stormed this building, you did not win,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he opened the Congressional session back up. “Let’s get back to work.”
Conversations on social media began drawing comparisons between the Capitol riots Wednesday and Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer and asking whether police were adequately prepared for the events. When asked about his department’s response to the riots, Contee expressed satisfaction.
"As far as the Metropolitan Police Department's response, I'm very comfortable with that," Contee said. "We had to contain the situation that we were dealing with and the moment we were able to contain the situation, [police] were able to make arrests.”
Mayor Bowser, however, pointed out that she did see differences in the federal responses to the Lafayette Square protests and the Capitol riots.
“I think that we saw different types of vehicles used,” she said. “We saw a different posture used [by officers] in some cases, such as we did see the use of that military personnel on the ground.”
Black Lives Matter DC issued a statement regarding the incident at the U.S. Capitol and the chaos across the District.
“On December 30, 2020, Black Lives Matter DC issued a statement calling on D.C. public officials and business leaders to stand up to white supremacists," BLM DC said in its statement. "We tried to warn the mayor and other elected officials, hotels and other businesses and we demanded that our city and sacred Black spaces be protected. Though we remain unsurprised, it should have never have gotten to this point. Instead of brutalizing Black Lives Matter activists, DC officials should have intervened months ago. White supremacists were emboldened and made to feel comfortable, confident and secure to come to our city and reign terror."
DO YOU KNOW THEM: Officials looking to ID persons of interest after riot at US Capitol
HISTORIC WINTER STORM:
A majority of East Texans suffered from the effects of the historic winter storm.
As of 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 150,000 Oncor customers remained without power, unable to heat their homes, road conditions are still dangerous and now many are without running water.
Larry Brown is just one of many still in the dark fighting to stay warm and fed. His apartment lost power Monday morning and water Tuesday afternoon. He is now facing another challenge, a flooded entryway due to busted pipes.
"Now that it's flooded, we don't have anything to use we don't have water, the water we had in the tub didn't sit by the tub because it didn't hold it in, so we have nothing," Brown said.
His family uses their car to charge their devices to stay in communication. They have yet to attempt to drive in these conditions, so they are just eating what they can.
"Basically these last days we just ate some cold cuts cause you cant warm anything up, some weenies summer sausage," Brown said.
Geri and Troy Townsend are another family whose lights went out on the first day of the storm. They finally were lucky enough to have their power restored Wednesday ,but once the lights came on the water went out.
"Finally after three days we got warm but we got resourceful with our water we went down to the pool, busted the top layer of ice, and got water from the pool to take care of the necessities," Troy Townsend said.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Troy looked online and it takes a gallon to two gallons to flush the toilet we had to save our drinking water so we were like uh, they are never gonna miss just five or six gallons of water," Geri Townsend said.
It's been one thing after another for the Townsend family but they are thankful to have electricity to stay warm.
"We are just so grateful that it came on because we know there are people that are still without it," she said.
CHEROKEE COUNTY QUADRUPLE MURDER:
The preliminary autopsy reports reveal the probable causes of death for the victims of a recent quadruple-murder in Cherokee County.
According to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office (CCSO), a call came in on the morning of Tuesday, July 20, regarding a body lying in the driveway of a home in the 1600 block of Highway 110 N.
When officials arrived on scene, three more bodies were located in the house.
The victims have been identified as:
- John Clinton, 18
- Jeff Gerla, 47
- Ami Hickey, 39
- Amanda Baine, 39
According to the CCSO, the following were taken into custody and charged with capital murder in connection with the crime:
- Dylan Welch, 21, of Jacksonville
- Billy Phillips, 37, of Jacksonville
- Jesse Pawlowski, 20, of Jacksonville
Bonds have been set at $1 million each.
A 911 call was placed by a woman who lived across the street from the crime scene. She woke up and saw the body in the driveway, but was unaware of the bodies in the back.
George Tennison has lived in the area where the bodies were found for the past seven decades.
"Nothing like that’s ever happened around here," Tennison said. "And I’ve been here 72 years.”
The four victims include a mother and son. According to a probable cause affidavit, Pawlowski met Gerla and Clinton on a dating app and started a romantic relationship with them.
In an interview with detectives, Pawlowski said he found out Clinton had a gun he wanted to sell. The affidavit states instead of buying the gun, Pawlowski and the other suspects planned to steal it.
Court documents also say the night the three suspects planned to steal the gun, Pawlowski had Phillps and Welch meet him at Gerla's home and brought Clinton outside to exchange the gun.
What happened next is unclear. All suspects gave different accounts in their interviews with detectives. However, what is clear, according to the affidavit, is Clinton was shot in the back of the head and left in the driveway.
The three other victims who were in the home were found dead with gunshot wounds, as well.
According to the preliminary autopsy reports, the following were identified as the causes of death for the victims:
- Clinton - Gunshot wound to the neck with extension to the head
- Gerla - Gunshot wound to the head
- Bain - Gunshot wounds
- Hickey - Gunshot wounds
"Our citizens are definitely safe now that these individuals are off the streets," Sheriff Dickson said.
SHOOTING AT TYLER RESTAURANT:
A shooting on Friday night cost one Texas woman her life.
Tylsha Brown was ringing in her 46th birthday at New Orleans Flavors Daiquiris in Tyler. Her cousin, Brittney Roberts, says Brown was the type of person you could call on for anything.
After a shooting broke out at the restaurant, Roberts was the one who got a call. Brown had been shot.
“I was blank," she recalled. "Like, I began asking some questions like, 'no, is she okay?' Is she going to the hospital? Where did she get shot? Does anybody know anything?' But you know, at the moment, nobody knew nothing.”
They later found out that she passed from her injuries. So far police have issued one warrant for Dycorrian Wayne Lofton, 22, of Jacksonville, but say there were others involved.
DISABLED VETERAN SCAMMED:
Building a house can be a stressful endeavor, but when you’ve invested your life savings into your family's future and your builder walks away, it can be devastating.
CBS19's Alan Kasper sat down with a disabled veteran and his wife to hear how a dream home near Henderson is starting to rot away before they ever moved in.
Chris Cormican: I was in the Army for eight years, I spent a tour in Iraq, that’s where I was injured. I was in three separate IED incidences. My entire spine is messed up, I got brain injuries, I have shoulder injuries, knee injuries.
Rosemary Cormican: Nerve damage, PTSD.
Chris Cormican: Last year we decided that we wanted to move into a more country environment, something more quiet. We started looking around and we found this piece of land that we fell in love with. So next up was to find a builder to build our home.
Rosemary Cormican: It is hard when you’re not from the area trying to find a good one, but I relied on reviews and I talk to this company for a number of weeks and I did feel at the time that this was an honest and trustworthy, reputable company.
Chris Cormican: We signed the contract in December. May 28, it was on the contract that, the house would be finished by -- right away we started having problems. Some of it was with weather but some of it was with the administration.
Rosemary Cormican: The foundation didn’t go down until April so there was about a four-month gap or so and then the framing didn’t start until May. In the beginning of May ... the framing was actually moving pretty quick. We were getting really excited thinking that the house was going to be very quick. After that though we started getting contacted by the builder saying that they needed more money.
Chris Cormican: The cost of the materials have been going up because of everything that was going on. So they told us the way to help save money was to purchase the materials before they kept going up in price and storing them in a rented warehouse, so they asked for a decent amount of money upfront, a couple hundred thousand dollars. This is the first time that we have ever built a house and so we thought maybe it was a good idea and gave them the money they had been requesting. Come to find out later that they had never rented the warehouse, they had never purchased the materials upfront and before we knew it, they came back asking for even more money and the framing hadn’t even been finished yet.
Rosemary Cormican: When I asked them where the money that we gave them was, they said it’s all out there [spent on the materials used to build the house up to that point]. If you go out to the house you’d find the house that is still missing some framing work and that is it!
For us it was really hard to take in, The fact that there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of our life savings, we cashed in Chris’s pension, 401(k)’s and everything to build this house and we were told it was all gone. On our contract the price was $410,000 for the home, there was an option to add a garage for another $75,000, which we later opted for and we paid that money as well.
Our down payment to start was $120,000 that we wired on December 18 last year and then in March they ask for the full $75,000 to add on the garage. Then in May, that was when they came back with the plan to purchase the materials and put them in the warehouse. They said 'we’re going to protect you guys from inflation' and she came over here and she picked up $150,000 check. After that in June, she requested the remainder of the money which was approximately $140,000 but we only gave her $50,000, leaving only $90,000 balance -- $395,000 is what we have paid to date for a barely framed shell of a house that didn’t even have windows.
They sent some very aggressive emails that said they were going to walk if they didn’t get more money ... at that point we began to feel like the walls were just caving in because we realized that we just gave this company $395,000 and trusted them and they told us that money is gone.
Chris Cormican: We didn’t have any loans, we wanted to try and build it without any debt that’s why we decide to use my pension in my 401(k) and all the savings that we had saved up for our whole lives working. They literally took money from our life savings and they essentially walked with it.
Rosemary Cormican: The intention was to remove the stress of Chris feeling like he would have to get a hard career that could potentially cause more damage to some of his injuries and just know that the house was paid for and that it was taken care of. It was supposed to be a place of peace and a place of healing.
Chris Cormican: It started out exciting, having a chance to live out in the country where it was quiet, the kids would be able to run around in and it turned into a nightmare. It has been nothing but stress and grief. It turned from something that was supposed to be great to something that has been just terrible.
Rosemary Cormican: Now we’re in the position where the wood framing is beginning to show weather damage because it’s been exposed since May. That house needs a roof and now we’re having to pay lawyers fees on top of everything else so we’re really in a bad situation.
Chris Cormican: It is completely unprotected and all that we’ve had done so far is literally starting to rot away.
Rosemary Cormican: There was a company that stepped up. There were some windows on the property that hadn’t been installed and they heard about the situation and they felt a burden, they came over that night they installed almost all of those windows and so for us it was a huge blessing. We are very very thankful for that company that they would do that, to drop what they were doing and rush over to do it that night.
The Cromicans currently have a GoFundMe page you can donate to. They say any and all funds are a blessing.
RELATED: The history of Veterans Day
LIVE LIKE LEGEND:
His name was Legend.
The 10-year-old boy from Lufkin died in a freak accident involving a horse at a rodeo competition in DeRidder, Louisiana, over the weekend.
His family says at his young age he found a passion for team roping.
“He’s been a Legend since the day he was born" his mother, Raegan Williamson, said
"He did the goat-tying event, the calf-breakaway event and he was a header in the team roping event," his father, Kelly Williamson, said.
Kelly confirmed Legend won second place at the Texas Region Junior High Rodeo and was warming up for the finals when tragedy struck.
The Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office says Legend was in the practice arena when a horse fell on top of him. He was immediately rushed to the hospital, but died of his injuries. Officials say they believe the horse suffered a heart attack or aneurism. It died, as well.
Raegan remembers her time with Legend in the hospital.
"As I was crying out to God to save my son, and I was begging him not to take my son, I knew Legend was going to lead thousands of people to Christ," Raegan said. "That was his mission in life.”
She says Legend’s death rocked the family to their core, but they've taken solace in his mission.
“If he touches more people after death than he did before, then his life was worth it," said Kelly. "If he touches one more person after death than before, then the ten years we got to spend with him, we won’t feel like we were robbed.”
In his absence, they’ve adopted a new phrase - "Live like Legend."
Legend was just learning how to make the most of his rodeo winnings. The week before the competition, he decided to open his first bank account.
Michelle Briley, Business Development Officer with Commercial Bank of Texas, welcomed him into the branch that day.
"His mom had him come in and he filled out all of the deposit slips," Michelle said. "He deposited his first check from winning team roping."
Commercial Bank of Texas opened a benefit account for the Williamson family to help them overcome their loss. Anyone interested in donating to the fund can click here to view branch locations.
In 10 short years, he managed to prove his name was no coincidence. For many reasons, his family says he’ll always be known as a legend.
WILLIAM DAVIS TRIAL:
On Oct. 19, a Smith County jury found William George Davis, 37, of Hallsville guilty of capital murder in connection with the deaths of:
- John Lafferty
- Ronald Clark
- Christopher Greenaway
- Joseph Kalina
The jury found Davis murdered the patients at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital by injecting air into their arterial systems while working as a nurse.
Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman is expected to hold a press conference after the judge dismisses the jury.
RECAPPING THE SENTENCING PHASE
In a phone call to his ex-wife following the guilty verdict, Davis said because money was tight, he would find ways to prolong ICU patients’ stays. He said he would hurt patients so they would be sicker. He would then be able to work more hours and make more money.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a United States Secret Service special agent said Davis viewed an online article titled, "List of serial killers by number of victims," about a month before his arrest in 2018.
Agent John Day said he analyzed a laptop with a username that was connected to Davis. The analysis showed the searches made on the computer and saved on the hard drive.
Day said the user either started searching "Mother Frances hospital" or fully searched “Mother Frances hospital investigating possible serial killer” on March 16, 2018.
Someone on the same laptop viewed the Wikipedia article with a list of serial killers that same day and looked at an article about serial killers on a cable news website, Day said.
FATAL SHOOTING AT EAST TEXAS HALLOWEEN PARTY:
The Texarkana Police Department says a suspect is in custody following a shooting that killed one person and injured another at a Halloween party.
Police say Keuntae McElroy, 21, of Texarkana, Arkansas, has been arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Detectives are currently preparing probable cause affidavits to obtain arrest warrants for McElroy for murder and eight additional charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
According to the TTPD, just before midnight, police responded to Octavia’s Event Center, located in the 2300 block of Texas Blvd. on reports of a shooting.
Police say when they arrived, they found a large number of people running from the building and several inside suffering from gunshot wounds.
Ten people were taken to local hospitals by ambulance, police units and private vehicles. Javon Gooden, 20, of Texarkana, died at the hospital. The TTPD says the injuries of the remaining nine victims, whose ages range from 15-23, do not appear to life-threatening.
"Detectives are investigating and interviewing victims and witnesses," the TTPD said in a statement. "It is estimated that there were at least a couple hundred people in the venue when the shootings occurred."
"While the motive is still unknown, the preliminary investigation indicates that it may been the result of some type of disturbance among some the partygoers," the TTPD said.
THANKSGIVING WEEKEND HUNTING ACCIDENT:
An East Texas child is dead after a reported hunting accident Saturday evening.
According to the Harrison County Sheriff's Office, around 5:15 p.m., deputies responded to a 911 call regarding a hunting accident involving an 11-year-old girl.
The sheriff's office says further calls determined a man accidentally shot his 11-year-old daughter, identified as Daisy Grace Lynn George, at a hunting lease near Young and Hickey roads in Hallsville with a 30-30 rifle.
Officials say the rifle was lying on a seat in the vehicle and when Daisy's father went to clear the hammer thinking the gun was unloaded. The rifle then went off, shooting the child.
When officials arrived on scene, they found Daisy with life-threatening injuries. EMS care flight was requested, but all emergency helicopters were grounded in the region due to inclement weather.
Daisy was then rushed to a Longview hospital where she died.
A Harrison County investigator and crime scene investigator responded, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Game Warden to complete a thorough investigation into this matter.
The Harrison County Sheriff's Office and TPWD will complete this investigation jointly due to the incident being a hunting episode.
Officials say Daisy was a 6th grade student at Hallsville ISD.
Harrison County Sheriff B.J. Fletcher is working with Hallsville ISD to coordinate grief counselors for all faculty and students affected by this horrible tragedy.
"Anytime a young person loses their life, it's tragic for all involved," Sheriff Fletcher said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends during this difficult time."
A GoFundMe has been set up to help pay for Daisy's funeral expenses.
Sheriff Fletcher says he doesn't foresee any arrests coming from the tragedy.