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Judge: Shooter was insane
Wilson County NewsJuly 24, 2013 | 1,951 views | 2 comments
Steven Edward Cole is not headed to prison, following a July 16 verdict by 81st Judicial District Judge Donna Rayes in Wilson County District Court that found the 51-year-old not guilty by reason of insanity.
Cole was charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a public servant, following an early morning shootout Jan. 15, 2011, with area law-enforcement personnel. Officers responded to Cole’s home near the corner of Lost Spring and Clear Spring drives north of Floresville, after neighbors reported that he was firing guns outside his home at 2 a.m.
Assistant District Attorney Tina Hartmann of the 81st Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Cole waived his right to a trial by jury, leaving Rayes to determine his fate.
“In Mr. Cole’s case, the state proved the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a public servant charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hartmann said. “However, there was sufficient evidence to support the defendant’s affirmative defense of insanity.”
The most compelling evidence, she said, was a report prepared by a licensed forensic psychiatrist, which concluded that Cole indeed was insane at the time of the offense. Rayes did find that Cole had engaged in dangerous conduct, which is why she ordered that he be held in the Wilson County Jail for 30 days for further evaluation.
Wilson County Sheriff’s Office deputies Raymond “Jeff” Roser and Toribio “Toby” Garcia were among the first to respond. The two suffered minor injuries when they were peppered with shotgun pellets. Also responding to the scene were Patrolman Eric Hutchinson of the Floresville Police Department, sheriff’s Deputy Travis Beck, and former sheriff’s Sgt. Dale Harrell.
When a member of the Texas Department of Public Safety SWAT Team entered the home a few hours later, Cole, who suffered four gunshot wounds when officers returned fire, was found lying on the floor, Hartmann said. He has been confined to a wheelchair since the incident.
Under the Texas Penal Code, each of the counts against Cole was a first-degree felony, meaning he could have been sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Also present in court July 16 was Benjie Burke III, 24, of Gilmer, who is charged with intoxication manslaughter with a motor vehicle in connection with his alleged role in a Jan. 21, 2012, crash on U.S. 181 north of Floresville. Killed in the head-on crash was Burke’s passenger, 30-year-old Justin Gregory Jones of Edmond, Okla.
According to court records, Burke is set to return to court Aug. 6 for a pretrial hearing, followed by docket call on Sept. 25. Jury selection ahead of his trial is set for Oct. 7.
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