One Dead, 13 Injured, Two in Custody After Weekend Shooting
Douglas Kantor, a 25-year-old tourist visiting Austin from the Detroit area, died Sunday
Douglas Kantor, a 25-year-old tourist visiting Austin from the Detroit area, died Sunday, June 13, after being shot along with 14* others in an outburst of gun violence on East Sixth Street just before 1:30am Saturday morning. Another victim, 34-year-old Jessica Ramirez, reportedly remains in critical condition after surgery and faces permanent paralysis. While two young people are in custody as suspects, much remains unconfirmed about how and why the shooting took place, even as a national spotlight turned on the rowdy Downtown entertainment district, Austin's public safety policies, and Texas' ever looser gun laws. [UPDATE 6-17-21 4pm: APD has updated the number of victims to 15.]
Pending further investigation, it appears the victims of Austin's largest mass shooting since the Texas Tower massacre in 1966, including Kantor and Ramirez, were all "innocent bystanders," as described by police Chief Joe Chacon in a Saturday afternoon briefing. Witnesses and officers report that shots rang out without warning on the heavily crowded and heavily policed street, closed to vehicle traffic as usual and busier than normal with both the Republic of Texas biker rally and the NCAA baseball tournament in town. It's unclear whether the shooters exchanged fire, emptied their weapons into the crowd, or both.
Chacon on Saturday said Austin Police Department staffing around East Sixth was at full strength. On Tuesday, in a joint press conference with his colleagues in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said that the law enforcement presence in the Downtown entertainment district was actually 20% higher than on most weekends (presumably due to the ROT Rally). "Yet the abundance of officers could not stop the shooting," Adler said. "Doug Kantor was killed at the hands of two juveniles who had guns they should never have had. We cannot police ourselves out of this crisis" of gun violence.
One of those two was arrested Saturday with the aid of the U.S. Marshal's Lone Star Fugitive Task Force; that suspect's identity, nor any charges against them, will likely not be disclosed under Texas juvenile-justice procedure. The other, Jeremiah James Tabb, is 17 and can be tried as an adult; he was apprehended in Harker Heights, near Killeen, on Monday morning without incident as he attended a summer-school class. He's been charged with aggravated assault; other charges, including any stemming from Kantor's death, have not been made public.
Kantor, a native of New York's Rockland County who attended college in Michigan and was employed by Ford, had recently bought a house and was engaged to his high school sweetheart, according to statements from his family. He was transported to Dell Seton in an APD vehicle after sustaining major abdominal injuries that proved unsurvivable. "It's painful to discuss, but I think the public deserves to know what my brother suffered," his brother Nick Kantor said.
Ramirez, the other critically injured victim, was out celebrating her 34th birthday when she was shot, according to her mother Bilma, who launched a GoFundMe to cover medical expenses and provide financial assistance. The single mother of five does not have health insurance, according to the crowdfunding appeal. The conditions of the other 13* victims, some of whom sought treatment on their own, have not been disclosed. [UPDATE 6-17-21 4pm: APD has updated the number of victims to 15 and says the 13 other survivors are "in stable condition."]
As most facts of the shooting remain unknown, opinions have rushed in to fill the breach. Thoughts and prayers came from many directions, including from Gov. Greg Abbott, who on Saturday invited all Texans to "join Cecilia [Abbott] and I in prayer for those who were injured" while pretending to direct Texas Dept. of Public Safety officers to help APD make sure "perpetrators are captured and punished to the fullest extent of the law." Tabb appears to have been arrested by Killeen ISD police, but DPS troopers are set to buttress APD staffing Downtown as needed, Chacon said.
Abbott did not mention the permitless carry legislation he would later sign, but others did. "I am angry because the politicians of Texas have failed to keep their constituents safe," wrote state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin. "Every day in Texas, 10 people die from gun violence. Yet the legislature just spent five months making it easier for violent people to get guns. This problem will continue to get worse until Texas' elected leaders have the courage to address it."
On Monday, state Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, wrote Abbott to ask for a veto of House Bill 1927, which passed over the objections of Chacon and other Texas police chiefs. "Many Texans will see [signing the bill] as a seal of approval on the practice of solving disputes with guns," Goodwin wrote, "and I am sure that this is not the message you intend to send. ... While I realize that laws cannot singlehandedly keep guns out of the wrong hands, I also understand that they impose boundaries, create order, and set a tone. We need you, as our governor, to send [that] message."