A 55-year-old man fatally shot his father Friday night, then ambushed unsuspecting officers with gunfire — wounding two — before killing himself, authorities said Tuesday.
Martin Craig Fleece had told his mother and brother that his father, Carl Fleece, had killed himself shortly after they heard two gunshots ring out inside the Wedgwood home Friday night.
As a result, police say, the brother reported the shooting to 911 as a suicide.
Officers who responded to the home in the 3800 block of Wharton Drive were intending to interview Martin Craig Fleece as a witness — not the shooter — when they approached a backyard shed where he lived and were soon met with gunfire.
Two officers —Xavier Serrano and Ray Azucena — were wounded in the shooting.
Martin Craig Fleece was found dead hours later by SWAT members from what the medical examiner’s office ruled Tuesday was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Carl Fleece’s death has been ruled a homicide caused by gunshot wounds to the head.
Sgt. Marc Povero, a police spokesman, said it was unclear what sparked Martin Craig Fleece to kill his 81-year-old father, who was a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.
“We did confirm that there’s been several domestic violence calls to the residence in the last few years involving Martin and his parents,” Povero said. “I would assume they just had some family issues going on.”
New details emerge
New details released by the department Tuesday provided a clearer picture of what happened Friday night.
Veneda Fleece and her other son, Vincent Fleece, told investigators they were in the living room watching television when Martin Craig Fleece entered the home from the backyard and walked inside a back room where Carl Fleece had been.
The mother and son said they heard two gunshots ring out before Martin Craig Fleece walked back into the living room and told them his father had just committed suicide.
Martin Craig Fleece then walked back outside to the shed where he lived while Vince Fleece called 911 to report the suicide.
Four officers and a sergeant arrived on the scene and began investigating, finding Carl Fleece with gunshot wounds to the head and a pistol near his body.
“Believing this to be a suicide attempt, MedStar personnel were cleared inside of the house to evaluate Mr. Fleece,” the department stated in an emailed account of the incident. “However, it was clearly evident that he was deceased.”
Police said Serrano and Azucena, as well as Sgt. Steve Fineman, were then directed to the shed where Martin Craig Fleece had gone. The three had approached the shed with plans of speaking to the younger Fleece as a witness to the shooting but Martin Craig Fleece would not open the locked shed door despite them identifying themselves as police.
Concerned for the younger Fleece’s welfare, Serrano and Azucena were attempting to force the shed door open when police said Martin Craig Fleece opened fire at them with a .45 caliber handgun.
Despite being struck multiple times, Serrano was able to return fire, police said. Fineman and another officer on the scene, Cliff Snodderly, also fired in Martin Craig Fleece’s direction.
Police said Snodderly then dragged Serrano to a safe location, where he began treating him with a TacMed bag he had brought with him with the intention of helping Carl Fleece.
MedStar paramedics and police, including an injured Azucena, then carried Serrano to an ambulance to be rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital, police said.
SWAT team members used gas canisters in attempt to get Martin Craig Fleece to surrender without further incident. After using an armored vehicle to tear down a wall to the shed, they discovered the man dead inside.
He had only one gunshot wound — self-inflicted — to the head, Povero said.
Vests saved lives
Azucena, a newly commissioned officer in training, was hit in the chest but the bullet was deflected by body armor. He was released from the hospital early Saturday.
Povero said Serrano was hit at least three times — in the left hand, left arm and in the upper torso, which traveled through his chest. A fourth round appears to have struck his ballistic vest, Povero said.
“Those vests saved those guys’ lives for sure,” Povero said. “The wound to Officer Azucena was directly over his heart.”
Povero said officers used to have a choice on whether to wear their ballistic vests during the hot summer months. He said that was recently changed by the executive staff after the Dallas shooting that left five officers dead.
“Now it’s mandatory for all of the officers to wear their vests all year long,” he said.
On Sunday, Serrano “was with his family in one of the TV rooms watching the Dallas Cowboy game,” Povero said. “Today he was up and around, looking out his window. He’s in good spirits and he’s just waiting on doctors to be comfortable enough to send him home.”
He is scheduled to be released from JPS Wednesday morning, a police news release said Tuesday night.