Wounded Burleson officer leaves hospital
With his right-hand thumb up for television cameras, a Burleson police officer left John Peter Smith Hospital on Thursday evening about 38 hours after he was shot three times during a traffic stop.
Officer Joshua Lott sat in the passenger seat of a pickup that turned from St. Joseph Court to South Main Street that was followed by a line of police vehicles from across the region. Their emergency lights flashed as they drove from the Fort Worth hospital.
“Doing great,” Lott said when he was asked how he was feeling.
Two people who were in the car that Lott stopped are in custody, and investigators from North Texas law enforcement agencies are investigating a series of crimes that include his shooting and the carjacking and shooting death of a woman.
Two men who were inside the car, including Jerry Elders, the driver who is accused of firing upon Lott through a window, were in the custody of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, according to jail records. A third person in the car, a woman, was detained and released, police said.
Elders was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Gainesville on suspicion of several crimes, including aggravated assault against a public servant, jail records show. Elders was not booked on suspicion of murder or capital murder, though authorities have said that they suspect him in the death of a woman who was shot later Wednesday morning during a carjacking. He was driving her pickup when he was arrested in Gainesville, police said.
Police confirmed the victim was Robin Waddell, who has been memorialized on social media as a loving family woman. She arrived at the Joshua Police Department around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday under unclear circumstances and died later at a hospital.
The man in the car with Elders when the officer was shot, Jeremy Brewer, was arrested late Wednesday on property off of County Road 804 in Johnson County, Burleson police spokeswoman DeAnna Phillips said. The charges on which he was booked, which include assault causing bodily injury and manufacturing and delivering a controlled substance, are connected to other incidents, she said.
Elders is being held on a bond of $1,010,741, jail records showed. Brewer is being held on $258,000 bond.
Phillips could not describe what role Brewer or the woman, whose name authorities did not release, played, or why they are not facing charges in connection with the Wednesday shootings and aggravated robbery. She referred those questions to the Texas Rangers, who are investigating the crimes.
Lonny Haschel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, declined on Thursday to provide an update on the investigation.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that booked Elders and Brewer, did not immediately respond to questions sent via email on Thursday.
There are lingering questions in the string of incidents, which began about 4:15 a.m. Wednesday with a traffic stop in Burleson because of a defective light. Police have said as Lott approached the passenger side of the stopped car, Elders shot him three times through the passenger window with a handgun, and the vehicle took off. The car was abandoned in the 700 block of John Jones Drive after it caught fire, police said.
But it was unclear on Thursday when Brewer and the woman became separated from Elders.
After the shooting of Lott, police said, Elders and the other two drove away from the scene together and their vehicle became disabled. Elders later stole Waddell’s pickup at her home in the 8000 block of County Road 802, police said. She was shot at some point, though it’s unclear when and where.
KTVT-TV reported the carjacker may have dumped Waddell outside of the police station after kidnapping her. Phillips said she didn’t have this information “as it didn’t happen in our jurisdiction.”
Police initially reported on Wednesday that another man was with Elders in the stolen pickup on Interstate 35 in Cooke County. But Phillips indicated on Thursday that was incorrect, and Elders was alone.
“There was some confusion during the Gainesville pursuit of Elders,” Phillips said. “We do not believe Brewer or anyone else was in the truck with Elders when he was apprehended in Gainesville.”
Elders had a gun on him when he was arrested, Phillips said, though she couldn’t say if it was used in one or both of the shootings.
A neighbor of Robin Waddell’s in Burleson told the Star-Telegram on Wednesday that she lived right across from her son, who discovered her truck was missing around 9:15 a.m. He thought she had left to run errands, the neighbor said, but learned about an hour later she had been killed.
The son, Phillip Waddell, had a run-in with the suspects earlier in the morning, when a woman banged on his door and he grabbed his shotgun and yelled at her to get off of his property, neighbor Shawn Alford said.
Phillips, the police spokeswoman, said she believes the woman who was in the car with Elders and was later released went to the son’s house that morning. But she’s unsure what transpired between the two, she said.
Alford has lived across the street from Phillip Waddell for two years, he said. He and his wife moved to the quiet area off County Road 802 to “get away from the crazies,” he said.
“And the crazies came to us,” he said Wednesday evening as he recounted the timeline of events earlier in the day that led to Robin Waddell’s death.
Early Wednesday morning, after Lott was shot, police vehicles and helicopters swarmed the area near Farm Road 731, on the edge of where Joshua and Burleson meet. Traffic was re-routed off 731 and onto the county road.
Alford’s and the Waddells’ homes are about a mile south of where the suspects abandoned their disabled vehicle. When Alford heard about the manhunt for suspects, he checked his barn and the area around his house.
Phillip Waddell did the same, Alford said. Waddell told Alford that at about 7:15 a.m., a woman covered in water and mud banged on his back door. Waddell met her with a shotgun and told her to leave, Alford said.
At 8:15 a.m., Waddell texted his mother, who lived at the next house down, and asked her if she was going to go to the family’s ranch, Alford said. She replied she was going to sit on the porch and drink coffee.
According to police, Robin Waddell was found outside the Joshua police station with gunshot wounds about 30 minutes later, at 8:45 a.m.
But her son did not yet know she was gone. At 9:15 a.m., Waddell walked down to his mother’s house and noticed her truck was missing.
Alford and Waddell continued to check their individual property, “not knowing that (Robin Waddell) had been abducted and killed,” Alford said.
Alford left the house, but got a call from his wife at about 10:15 a.m. that something was going on across the street. He went home.
“(Waddell) met me in the yard and said, ‘My mom has been murdered,’ ” Alford said.
No one at Waddell’s house or Alford’s house heard a gunshot between 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., Alford said, leading him to believe that the suspect did not shoot Robin Waddell during the initial abduction.
Robin Waddell was a good neighbor who helped round up Alford’s dog once when he got loose on the Waddells’ 150-acre property, Alford said. Alford met Phillip Waddell the first day he and his wife moved into their home and, while they have not been close friends, they have always been neighborly, he said.
Alford’s wife will no longer feel safe checking on the livestock early in the morning, he said, because of Wednesday’s events.
“It’s just devastating,” he said. “Being out here in the middle of nowhere, you don’t expect that.”