State troopers arrested 24-year old Fausto Cardenas on Thursday for allegedly firing several shots on the south steps of the Texas Capitol Thursday, the Travis County sheriff’s department said.
No one was injured in the lunch hour shooting. Cardenas is from Houston, according to Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety.
He will likely be charged with felony misconduct. DPS suspects no other shooters but the Texas Capitol has been closed for the day. This is standard procedure. No apparent damage was done to the Capitol, Mange said.
According to witnesses interviewed by the Austin-American Statesman the man fired five shots into the air. Tourists ran for cover as about seven DPS officers descended on the suspect and told him to get down on the ground.
Elizabeth Hollman, a 16-year-old from Cold Spring, said she heard the shots while standing just inside the south entrance and notified a trooper standing nearby. She said she followed the trooper outside where he called for the man to take his hands out of his pockets and drop to the ground. The trooper then handcuffed the suspect as other troopers rushed up to the scene. Photos of the suspect being arrested can be found at lavidastudios.com
“They called for us to go inside and then we were told to go upstairs,” Hollman said. But once on the third floor, she said troops then told everyone to leave the building. “They said there might be another shooter on the third floor.”
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said the suspect came into his third-floor office before the shooting.
“The suspect came into my office asking to speak to one of my female staff members in my office,” Patrick wrote on his Facebook page. “He was acting in a way that made my staff concerned. He left and and a few minutes later several shots were reportedly fired.”
Immediately following Cardenas’ arrest on the south steps, witness Jill Magid said troopers began yelling, “Third floor, third floor.” A group of troopers began running upstairs with guns drawn toward Patrick’s office. Troopers told visitors on the third floor to leave because they were searching near Patrick’s office for another suspect, but they were apparently referring to the same man.
Patrick said he and other senators are concerned about Capitol security following today’s shooting.
“Our troopers do a great job, but with open access to the public day & night it is impossible to track everyone,” Patrick added. “I’m going to call upon leadership to review our security policy after today’s event.”
Texas has one of the most open Capitol buildings in the nation. There are dozens of entrances and none of them have security checkpoints or metal detectors. It is likely the suspect was carrying his weapon when visiting Patrick’s office. Mange, the DPS spokeswoman, said it was not illegal for someone with a concealed weapon permit to carry it inside the Capitol, so there was no need for a metal detector.
So far no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting have come forward but many visitors described a scrum of troopers pouncing on the suspect. The shooting occurred at 12:15, according to DPS. Most Capitol staffers were out of the building at lunch when the shooting occurred.
DPS officers swept the third floor hallways, according to senate staffer Monica Bosquez who works in a third-floor office.
“I didn’t hear any shots,” says Bosquez. “A trooper came by and told me to lock the door. No one could come in or out until further notice. I’m hiding out in the back of the office watching the TV and trying to figure out what’s going on.”