A Copperas Cove, Texas, officer was arrested and is no longer on the force after shooting at an unarmed Black woman earlier this week in what officials are calling a possible case of road rage.
The victim, Lacresha Murray of Copperas Cove, told KWTX that on Sunday, May 23, around 12:45 p.m., she got into an altercation with the then-off-duty officer, Eric Stoneburner, near the 1500 block of Robertson Avenue. Murray said she was attempting to make her way to a nearby hospital after abruptly feeling ill.
According to police and media reports, after Murray made a U-turn from her westbound direction of travel in front of an eastbound silver 2008 Dodge Dakota pickup truck being driven by Stoneburner, he went around Murray, she subsequently went around him, and then he began tailgating her until she got to a stop sign. That’s when she says she decided to get out of her car and confront Stoneburner, who also had his 4-year-old granddaughter in his vehicle at the time.
According to court documents obtained by KDH, Murray exited her car, “walked towards Stoneburner’s vehicle and stopped at the rear of her vehicle, with her right hand inside her waistband.” Stoneburner also got out of his vehicle and then “pointed his duty handgun and aimed it at Murray while commanding her to show her hands and stop.”
Murray, who says she was holding onto her side at that moment because she was in pain, claimed the man never identified himself as a cop. “When I turned around to run back to my truck and get out of there, I just heard pop pop pop pop, and all I could do was bend over and duck,” she told reporters. “He just started shooting, all I could do was lean over, and he hit me six times. I’m a victim that got shot by an off-duty police officer that did not identify himself.”
A police affidavit says, “Immediately after Murray closed her driver’s door, Stoneburner intentionally and knowingly used/discharged his handgun eight times towards the driver’s seat — into the passenger compartment — of Murray’s vehicle, striking Murray several times and causing her serious bodily injury.”
Murray said Stoneburner only identified himself after noticing people around him were recording. Nearby residents flooded the street, yelling at him to put his gun away. One neighbor told reporters. “If the guy with the gun tried to run, he wasn’t going [anywhere] because the whole neighborhood would tackle him because we were all out here.”
The victim was later transported to Scott & White Hospital in Temple with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and could later walk and talk during her interview. She was angry that the man, who had been on the force for five years, did not reveal himself to be law enforcement, telling them, “Tell me you’re a police officer. Why do you argue with me like a normal person when you didn’t do anything?”
However, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University-Central Texas told KDH on Tuesday following the incident that Murray’s request is seemingly not feasible because there are no guidelines or laws requiring an off-duty officer to adhere to official protocols. “Even though you’re always considered ‘on duty,’ what that really means is you’re responsible for your actions on and off duty,” Bracewell explained. “It doesn’t mean you’re always required or expected to act.”
Stoneburner resigned from the department before turning himself in at the Coryell County Jail on Thursday, May 27. He was later charged with aggravated assault causing bodily injury using a deadly weapon, authorities revealed during a press conference the following day. He has since been released.
In a statement, CCP Chief Eddie Wilson said, “As a department, we cannot support Mr. Stoneburner’s decision to use deadly force in the moment and manner in which did.” The chief noted that the law, and the department’s policy, limit the use of deadly force when an officer believes they or another person are in imminent and immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury. Wilson added, “Because of the facts we have do not show that to be true, we agree with the decision made by the Department of Public Safety.” He also did not offer an explanation of how Stoneburner should have conducted himself in the situation with Murray.