Northeast Tarrant

Killer fired gun in Euless park, waited to ambush police

The first three shots woke Jerry Banloon from an afternoon nap.

Banloon opened his back door and looked out across J.A. Carr Park.

“I thought maybe it was someone banging on the fence, but I saw a police officer there,” he told the Star-Telegram Wednesday. “He was kind of back behind one of the trees behind the fence. I realized then something was not quite right.”

The scene “was exactly like something out of a movie,” he said.

For about 20 minutes, starting about 2:50 p.m., more than a dozen Euless police officers converged on the wooded area in the park, confronting someone who was firing at police near a creek bank along the park’s southwest edge.

In the end, Officer David Hofer and the shooter, Jorge Brian Gonzalez, were fatally shot.

Gonzalez, who had been released from Euless City Jail at 11:23 a.m. Tuesday, had broken into a home on Bayless Drive, stolen multiple weapons and fired several random rounds before taking a “position of cover” in a drainage ditch to ambush the responding officers, Euless police Chief Michael Brown said Wednesday.

A caller to 911 said she saw a red pickup and heard the random shots being fired. “I heard one, and then bam, bam, bam.”

Hofer and two other officers were the first to respond to the park.

When Hofer arrived, he “began to give verbal commands” to Gonzalez, who “immediately began firing multiple rounds at the officer,” Brown said.

Banloon was watching from a window of his home in the 600 block of Bayless Drive.

“I saw officers on both sides. There were more coming in by the gazebo. One of them had a shield. I heard more shots go back and forth. Probably about 15 minutes had passed, and I heard two or three more shots. Then a minute passed, and the officers yelled out that the suspect was down.”

Banloon stepped outside and opened his gate.

“The next thing I saw was one of the younger officers running around crying,” Banloon said. “Then they pulled the officer’s body up on the creek ledge, trying to resuscitate him.”

Hofer and Gonzalez were pronounced dead later at hospitals.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez’s father apologized for his son’s actions.

“I know that what my son did was bad, what he did. He killed a police officer,” said his father, Jorge Antonio Gonzalez.

‘Run out of here!’

Two witnesses, Eddie Woods and Mark Turner — retirees who live near Carr Park — saw the beginning of the shootout as they walked on a gravel trail along the northwest side of the park.

“We would have walked right into it if it hadn’t been for the policeman who came roaring through the park with his gun drawn,” Woods said.

From about 50 yards away, Turner, Woods and another friend hid behind trees. Turner said he could see one officer kneeling next to a row of large rocks in the far southwest corner of the park and firing into the creek.

“They were shooting a lot of rounds over there,” Turner said. “Some of them were deflecting off rocks, going ‘zing!’ Right by our ear.”

Another police officer called to them, “Hurry up! Run out of here!” Turner said.

On the west side of the creek, Gretchen Becker, a teller at Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union, first heard a loud banging noise as she stood behind the bank during a smoke break.

“It sounded like someone throwing something into a garbage can, like a metal dumpster or something,” she said. “Then I heard a cop yell, ‘Put your hands up!’ 

Becker looked across the field, and saw about 15 officers moving toward the creek. Scared, she ran back inside the credit union.

‘Frenzied yelling’

With large rocks in the way, emergency crews couldn’t get to the fallen officer via Bayless Drive, which goes directly to the area of the shooting, Banloon said. Instead, officers kicked through a wooden fence, and the ambulance entered on a gravel trail off Simmons Drive.

“It was just frenzied yelling,” Banloon said.

From across Simmons Drive, Gene Renteria tried to catch a glimpse of what was happening from his front yard near the entrance of Carr Park.

He had been on his computer when “all of a sudden I heard this Pop! Pop! Pop!”

Renteria went outside and saw an officer walking toward the southwest corner of the park with his gun pointed. Another officer soon arrived.

“He said, ‘This is a dangerous area,’ ” Renteria said, “‘and you guys need to leave.’ ”

Law enforcement support

Later Tuesday, a caravan of fire trucks and police cars from area departments with lights flashing drove to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine where Hofer was taken.

On Wednesday, many in the town were in mourning. Flags across Euless flew at half-staff, and law enforcement officers from across Tarrant County saluted the funeral home hearse that drove Hofer’s body away from the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

Hofer, 29, had worked in Euless since 2014, after moving from New York, where he had been an officer with the New York Police Department for five years.

“My heart goes out to Officer Hofer’s family during this difficult time,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Our police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure that our communities are safe, and we can never say thank you enough. Cecilia and I will keep the officer’s family and the entire Euless community in our thoughts and prayers as they heal from this tragedy.”

“It’s a sad day for this community, this region, and the state of Texas,” Chief Brown said. “We lost a friend. A family lost a son and a brother. A fiance lost the love of her life.”

Remember slain officer

The Euless Police Benevolent Organization set up a donations account for Hofer’s family at My Credit Union, 1014 N. Industrial Blvd., Euless TX.

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