Of­fi­cials: Vic­tims ran­domly tar­geted

Austin po­lice ar­rest for­mer pol­icy an­a­lyst at Leg­is­la­ture in string of shootings. 1 dead, 2 in­jured af­ter at­tacks that left Post South La­mar, rest of city on edge.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Wil­son md­wil­son@states­man.com

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

a gain 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 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 bul

let. 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-yearold 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 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 the past 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.

LYNDA M. GON­ZA­LEZ / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Po­lice of­fi­cers keep traf­fic from the en­trance of Post South La­mar apart­ment com­plex at 1500 S. La­mar Blvd., where Charles Curry, 29, was ar­rested about 6 p.m. Wed­nes­day. Po­lice said they plan to file a mur­der charge against Curry in Mon­day’s shoot­ing death of Chris­tian Meroney.

LYNDA M. GON­ZA­LEZ / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Joe Cha­con said all the shootings Wed­nes­day ap­peared to have been ran­dom. No other in­for­ma­tion about what might have sparked the ram­page was avail­able Thurs­day.

Charles Curry was charged with ag­gra­vated as­sault.

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