A deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Texas Rangers and Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Department investigates a Wednesday shooting that left Kevin B. Koonce of Etoile dead.
“During the last eight months, the sheriff’s office has made numerous attempts to reach out to family members and his attorney to seek a peaceful surrender,” Sheriff Jason Bridges said in a press release. “After many months of attempting to have Koonce turn himself in to authorities, no progression in the case was being made.”
An arrest warrant was issued for Koonce, 46, on July 17. Three weeks later, sheriff’s officials, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety SWAT team, Precinct 4 Constable’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service tried to serve the warrant when the suspect allegedly opened fire on a deputy.
“On Wednesday around 5 a.m., law-enforcement officials arrived in Etoile,” Bridges said. “While staging for the execution of the search warrant, a vehicle was observed driving down the road that (I) knew was possibly associated (with) the suspect, Kevin Koonce.”
Bridges ordered deputies to stop the vehicle.
“The traffic stop occurred on Hwy. 103 East, just west of Etoile,” he said. “The driver of the vehicle stopped on the side of the road. (He) then immediately jumped out of his vehicle and came running at the patrol unit, opening fire with a pistol in his hand.”
Koonce fired at least four rounds from a .45 caliber handgun, hitting the deputy’s patrol unit at least three times, including once in the windshield.
“The deputy barely had time to get out of his patrol unit and take cover,” Bridges told The Daily Sentinel. “He didn’t have an opportunity to say anything to Mr. Koonce. All he had time to do was react to the gunfire. He had no choice but to immediately return fire, and that’s what he did.”
The unidentified deputy was not injured, Bridges said.
“EMS was on scene within a matter of minutes to give medical aid to the suspect. (He) was pronounced deceased at the scene by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Judge Kerry Don Williamson. An autopsy has been ordered.”
Deputies reportedly found another gun in Koonce’s pocket and two AR-10 rifles, .50 caliber magazines and 30 other loaded magazines in the front seat of his Ford pickup, Bridges said. At his residence, officials reportedly found 20 more assault weapons, multiple bags of ammunition and hundreds of loaded magazines.
“He was very heavily armed,” Bridges said. “Koonce was being seen at times by the public in which he was always armed. (He) was using social- media sites and posting rhetoric about weapons, law enforcement and anti-government issues. It was believed by law enforcement that Kevin Koonce was becoming more of a threat to not only law enforcement but the general public.”
That’s why officials drafted a tactical plan to capture him, Bridges said.
“Koonce ... had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for the offense of motion to revoke probation with the original charge being aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” he said. “He has made statements that he would not be taken alive. (The) sheriff’s office has also gained information and had personal knowledge that Koonce has a history of being violent.”
The suspect reportedly was living in a motor home in a secluded area of the woods near CR 466, Bridges said.
A spokesman for DPS said the agency served as “backup” and provided a helicopter in the incident.
It is the second time in less than four months the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office has been involved in a shooting. On June 17 just before 1 a.m., two deputies shot and killed John Stevens, 41, whom officials reportedly found in his driveway, armed with a pistol. They negotiated with the suspect for about 45 minutes before he reportedly walked toward deputies, disregarding their commands to stop and drop his weapon. Deputies, according to a press release, used bean-bag rounds in an attempt to disarm Stevens, but he took cover behind some bushes and allegedly began shooting at deputies with a handgun, striking a patrol vehicle several times.
Two deputies returned fire. Stevens was pronounced dead at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital.
Bridges told The Daily Sentinel the deputies have returned from paid administrative leave following an internal investigation. He has declined to release further information, citing a still-open Texas Rangers probe.
According to publicdata.com, Koonce was sentenced to six years probation in 2007 after pleading guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. In the same year, he pleaded guilty to terrorist threat of a family member and was sentenced to 12 months probation with a six-month suspended jail sentence.