Crime

Greenville party shooting suspect released; prosecutors asked to ‘take no action’

The man authorities had alleged was the suspect in the shooting deaths of two men at an off-campus college party outside Greenville was released Tuesday night from custody as the case against him was abandoned.

The arrest of Brandon Gonzales, 23, was based on credible information, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a statement.

“Law enforcement has diligently investigated this case and in the days since the arrest, additional information has come to light,” according to the statement, released to WFAA-TV on Tuesday. “Due to the lack of cooperation from witnesses and discovery of exculpatory evidence during the course of the investigation, we have requested the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office take no action on Mr. Gonzales’ case at this time.”

The statement didn’t specify what exculpatory evidence investigators found.

Gonzales was arrested Oct. 28. A confidential informant said he or she witnessed Gonzales open fire at the party on Oct. 26, killing Kevin Berry Jr. of Dallas and Byron Craven of Arlington, and shooting six others who survived, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Texas Ranger Laura Simmons wrote in the affidavit that the informant contacted the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office with eyewitness information. Then, through an attorney, the witness identified Gonzales as the gunman through the suspect’s Facebook profile and from photos of the suspect.

The witness reported seeing Gonzales late that Saturday in line to enter The Party Venue, outside Greenville. The witness later saw him with a large group playing dice in a restroom, then saw him leave the restroom, pull a handgun from his waist and begin shooting, according to the affidavit.

The shooting took place at a Halloween and homecoming party for Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Pam Lopez, Brandon Gonzales’ mother, said Tuesday evening that he had never wavered from his story of being uninvolved.

“We’re filled with joy,” Lopez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “This is a testament that prayers do work. You had a 23-year-old innocent man looking at a possible death penalty for something he did not do.”

In a television interview Oct. 28 with WFAA, the Star-Telegram’s media partner, Gonzales said he was at the party but he was in a car outside the venue when the shooting began. Gonzales said he had witnesses who could confirm he wasn’t the shooter.

A Hunt County Sheriff’s Office spokesman previously told WFAA that investigators believed they arrested the right person “100%, without a doubt.”

“We’re confident in the investigation that was conducted by our investigators, Texas Rangers, and the Department of Public Safety criminal investigation division,” said Sgt. Jeff Haines of the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office in that previous statement.

Gonzales’ attorneys say there was no evidence to justify the arrest. They say they’re considering filing a civil lawsuit against law enforcement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Emerson Clarridge covers crime and other breaking news for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He works evenings and reports on law enforcement affairs in Tarrant County. He previously was a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, New York.
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