Abilene Fernandez was asleep when her mom heard a loud banging on their door early Friday.
She thought it was her daughter, but found her in the shower. Sleepy and confused she slowly opened her door, and shone a flashlight on the man who was hiding against her wall.
“He had these really big eyes,” she said. “He just looked at me and he had this terrified look on his face. That’s when I screamed … I backed off and locked the door again.”
She heard the man jump onto her stepfather’s truck and over her chain-linked fence, which had been locked.
Moments before the knocking began, on the street south of her house, Fort Worth police Officer Garrett Hull had just been shot in the head while trying to stop suspects in an armed robbery, Chief Joel Fitzgerald said.
The robbery happened shortly after midnight at the Los Vaqueros sports bar in the 400 block of W. Biddison St., police said.
Sgt. Chris Britt said undercover officers had been conducting surveillance on men suspected in a string of violent robberies that have hit Hispanic-owned bars since the summer.
Fernandez has seen the damage those suspects have done firsthand.
“We don’t have peace here anymore,” she said. “The kids couldn’t play outside anymore. We all have to watch each other’s backs.”
A few men were robbed on a porch late at night a few weeks ago, Fernandez said. And there have been other robberies that the neighborhood thinks ties back to those suspects.
She said they’ve been looking out for cars that don’t belong and calling police when they see something suspicious. While talking with a Star-Telegram reporter, another neighbor asked the reporter to confirm the car parked on the street was hers because they’d never seen it parked there before.
“We’re on edge,” Fernandez said.
In July, police appealed for help for information on the three suspects. At that time, more than 20 customers had been robbed.
One customer of El Corral was shot in the face. A customer at Rincon Bohemio was kicked in the head and knocked unconscious, police said.
The string of holdups began on June 24. The list of bars hit by the robbers includes Rincon Bohemio, 4000 Hemphill St., June 24; La Escondida Bar, 215 W. Morningside Drive, July 1; El Corral Bar, 317 Collard St., July 13; and El Tamaulipas Bar, 3616 N. Main St., July 14.
But Fort Worth Police Chief Joeal Fitzgerald said the suspects are tied to at least 17 crimes — some outside of city limits.
When Hull and other officers were conducting surveillance at Los Vaqueros, the suspects robbed the bar, Britt said.
“Our officers confronted those suspects a short distance away at 3500 May Street ...The suspects were trying to get into a vehicle. They were not able to do so, so they continued to run on foot,” Britt said.
The 3500 block of May Street was still blocked by police cruisers and tape by 11:30 a.m. Friday. At around 11, two vehicles were towed off of the street — a maroon GMC Sierra truck and a blue Ford SUV. The back window and back passenger window of the SUV appeared to be shot out.
Britt said by the time the suspects started to run off, multiple uniformed officers had joined the pursuit.
“At least one of those suspects produced some sort of weapon and began to fire,” Britt said. “Officers returned fire. That suspect is deceased on the scene.”
Hull was hit and other officers began to render aid. He was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in critical condition, Fitzgerald said.
Police said all the surviving suspects were arrested.
Those suspects were identified — Dacion Steptoe is the man police say shot Hull. Steptoe was shot and killed by police. Samual Mayfield was also identified by police because he has an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The third man was identified as Timothy Huff, 33.
Mayfield faces charges of 10 counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of attempted capital murder. Mayfield has warrants out of Tarrant County for three counts of theft between $100 and $750 and one count of possession of marijuana under two ounces. An outstanding assault causing bodily injury warrant from Fort Worth and two traffic warrants issued out of Samson Park are also recorded on the Tarrant County jail log for Mayfield, jail records show.
Huff is facing 10 counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of attempted capital murder, the Tarrant County jail log showed.
Lt. Chris Britt said during a press conference at John Peter Smith Hospital that was shown on Facebook live that both Mayfield and Huff each face 10 counts of aggravated robbery because 10 patrons of the Los Vaqueros sports bar were inside when the suspects attempted to rob the establishment.
Another police officer was near Hull when shots were fired and that accounts for the two counts of attempted capital murder, Britt said. Huff and Mayfield are being questioned about their possible involvement in as many as 15 robberies, Britt said.
Fernandez said after she saw the police lights across the street, she alerted officers to the man who broke into her hard.
“I told them somebody had knocked on my house and if they could please come and check the back of our yards, under our cars, in trees, wherever to see if that person was hiding here,” she said. “I have six kids inside the house so I was pretty much freaking out. They did.”
Fernandez said she’s sad and heartbroken about Hull.
“He was protecting our community,” she said.