AUSTIN, Texas — Authorities are dropping charges against the teenagers arrested in connection with Austin's deadly mass shooting on Sixth Street as the investigation continues and they close in on a new suspect, officials said Tuesday.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza and Interim Austin Police Department Chief Joseph Chacon provided an update on the investigation during a press briefing Tuesday morning.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 12, police initially said shots were fired into a large crowd in the entertainment district on Sixth Street, sending several to the hospital. A total of 14 were injured, including one victim who may be permanently paralyzed and another who was shot in both legs and is relearning how to walk. One person died as a result of his injuries.
On Tuesday, Chacon said the shooting involved two rival groups who encountered each other on Sixth Street and exchanged words. "Many" people involved had guns, Chacon said.
Police had previously arrested two teens – a 17-year-old and a juvenile – in connection to the shooting. However, on Tuesday, Chacon said police now have a new suspect named De'ondre Jermirris White, who they believe to be the primary gunman in the shooting.
"And we have multiple witnesses that saw Mr. White in possession of the murder weapon," said Chacon.
Garza said that evidence suggests White, 19, is the person who is "primarily responsible" for the shooting. Authorities are now searching for White, who is believed to be armed and dangerous, and are asking for the public's help in locating him.
After the shooting, police said White changed his appearance by cutting and dying his hair. He was interviewed by detectives after the shooting and then returned to Killeen, where police believe he went into hiding.
The photo below shows images of White before (left) and after (right) the shooting:
Garza said once White is apprehended, he will be charged with murder in connection with the death of 25-year-old Douglas John Kantor, who died from injuries sustained during the mass shooting.
Garza said the 17-year-old and juvenile who had been arrested had been charged with aggravated assault and deadly conduct, respectively. The charges against both of those individuals will be dropped.
Garza said at this point in the investigation, "dismissing those charges is what is in the best interest of the investigation" although his office "has not made final charging decisions with respect to either young man or anyone involved in this case" and they will continue to evaluate the conduct of everyone involved.
However, Chacon said he wanted to make clear that the two teens were not "innocent bystanders."
"I think that is important for people to understand," said Chacon. "And that in the end, these individuals had weapons and might have otherwise done greater harm to our community."
Chacon stated that while it's clear that the 17-year-old and the juvenile were present at the scene and did have guns, police "do not have clear evidence" indicating whether either of those individuals fired their weapons during this incident.
Chacon said that police do know for certain, based on witness statements and video evidence, that White shot his weapon and they are confident he is the person primarily responsible for the shooting. Chacon also said the murder weapon has been linked, through ballistic evidence, to other violent crimes as well.
The Austin Police Department will not be filing new affidavits to keep the 17-year-old and juvenile in custody, and Chacon said the "decision of whether to charge or not lies with the DA's office."
Garza said this is an ongoing and evolving investigation. When asked if police know where White, the primary suspect, is and whether an arrest will be made soon, Chacon said, "We are working on that right now."
Garza released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
“This morning, APD announced that they have identified the shooter who is responsible for the death and injuries that took place in our community. APD is currently searching for him, and we believe that he will be apprehended soon. When he is apprehended, he will be charged with murder.
"Last week, one juvenile was arrested and charged by APD with deadly conduct, and one 17-year-old ... was arrested and charged by APD with aggravated assault. At no time was there sufficient evidence to believe that either suspect was responsible for the death of Mr. Kantor.
"This morning, we dismissed the charges against [suspect one] and the juvenile arrested in the aftermath of the shooting. Dismissing these charges is what is in the best interest of the investigation and our prosecution at this time.
"At this time, there is not sufficient evidence that either of these gentlemen fired a shot, nor is there sufficient evidence to seek an indictment. With the evidence we have right now, the law requires our office to dismiss the charges, but the office has not made final charging decisions as to anyone involved.
"We continue to urge anyone who has information or was present on the scene the night of the shooting to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement."
Anyone with more information about this case is asked to contact police at 512-974-TIPS, email email@example.com, utilize the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS), or the Crime Stoppers app. Tips can be submitted anonymously.
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