February 24, 2005.
"At 1:29 this afternoon, our Tyler Police Department dispatch received a call that there were shots fired," says Officer Don Martin at an impromptu press conference.
It was utter chaos the day of the Smith County Courthouse shooting. Gunman David Hernandez Arroyo, armed with an assault rifle, fired rounds of ammunition on the courthouse steps to the horror of witnesses.
"Heard at least 50 shots, it seemed like 50 shots were fired," says one unidentified witness. "Very methodical," says witness Kent Boozer describing Arroyo's demeanor. "[He] wasn't panicking, wasn't running. He was walking across the square, squeezing out bullets."
Inside the courthouse, panic ensued, not knowing who Arroyo was targeting. A KLTV 7 News crew was inside a courtroom on the 2nd floor when Arroyo's gunshots brought fear for those not knowing what was going on.
Outside, Arroyo murdered the mother of his own children, Maribel Estrada, over a bitter custody battle. Next to her lifeless body was their eldest son, David, Jr. He was saved because of the bravery of civilian Mark Wilson, who fired shots at Arroyo too. But Arroyo later executed Wilson at point blank range.
Onlookers feared for their lives. "I think he saw us in the window and decided to shoot our way to make us get away from the windows," says witness Skip Mason. "[The bullet] came through the front door!" Most critically wounded was Smith County Deputy Sherman Dollison. Seen on courthouse surveillance video running outside, with his gun drawn.
Witnesses would see Arroyo shooting Dollison multiple times. "The one down on the ground was not dead yet, he was raising his hand to get up. And the guy would shoot at him 3-4 more times," says Mason.
The intense police pursuit began. Police finally spotted Arroyo's maroon pick-up truck on Highway 271. Another shootout would start, but Arroyo would be on the losing end. "The suspect was taken into custody and transferred to ETMC where he was pronounced dead," says Chief Gary Swindle with the Tyler Police Department. What's not dead are the memories of this tragic day. An event one no one hopes is ever repeated.
February 24, 2005.