The Fort Worth police department thanked the public for praying for two officers wounded while responding to a suicide call on Friday night.
Rookie Officer Ray Azucena suffered a minor injury when he was shot in his bullet-prood vest. He was treated and released. He just graduated from the Fort Worth Police Academy in July.
Officer Xavier Serrano, an eight-year veteran of the force, is in stable condition at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth pending further surgery for his gunshot wounds to his upper torso, arms and shoulder.
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Officer Serrano has his family and fellow officers by his side at JPS hospital, while investigators are untangling a tragic family drama that left two officers injured and a father and son dead.
It doesn't take long for a quiet neighborhood to turn to a crime scene.
"It was really scary the whole time," said Meaghan Helms.
She and her family saw it happen Friday night, when their neighbor's home was suddenly surrounded.
"There were dozens of police officers in the front yard and around there," said Meaghan’s husband Jason Helms.
Fort Worth Police originally responded to a call that someone was suicidal at Wharton and Woodway Drive. When they got there, an elderly man was shot dead in a bedroom.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office identified the man as 81-year-old Carl Fleece asn said he was shot in the head and the manner of death was homicide.
Another person in the home told police there was a “potential witness” in a shed out back. But when officers opened the shed doors, the man inside started firing.
"Officers did return fire, however two of our officers were hit," said Fort Worth Police Spokesman Sgt. Mark Povero.
Officer Azucena was shot once in his bullet-proof vest. He was treated and released from the hospital. Officer Xavier Serrano was shot multiple times but is now stable.
"I'm thankful that they're safe and alive," said Mr. Helms.
The SWAT team arrived to first try negotiating when the shooter in the shed. When he didn’t respond, they tried releasing tear gas, before eventually going in to find the man was dead, police spokesman Officer Daniel Segura said.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office identified the man as Fleece's son 55-year-old Martin Fleece and said he died of a gunshot wound to the head, the manner of death was ruled a suicide.
It's all hard for neighbors to take in. They describe the elderly couple who lived there as the kindest on the block.
"Everyone just has so many nice things to say about them. They would get our garbage cans from the street if we left them out too long," said Mrs. Helms. "Every week,” added Mr. Helms. “If we made it past about 4:00 PM on Friday they'd bring them in for us. They were very nice people."
But they had a troubled adult son living with them.
"It was clear that the son was having some troubles. I wasn't sure what those were," said Mr. Helms.
Now as they wait for more answers, neighbors stand ready to support the family, especially the elderly woman who just lost her husband and son.
“Our prayers go out to her,” said Mr. Helms. “Hopefully we’ll be able to welcome her back into the neighborhood again at some point and she’ll be making pies again at some point and we’ll be having her over. But that’s, I think, a little ways away.”
Officer Segura said there had been at least two calls for disturbances involving a father and son at the address over the past two years, as well as one in 2012.
Neighbors showed NBC5 the father's Facebook page. It lists him as a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and says he also worked as an Associate Director of Operations for DFW Airport from 1974 to 1989.
His adult son has a lengthy criminal history and, according to neighbors, a history of drug abuse.
On Saturday afternoon, Mayor Betsy Price released the following statement to NBCDFW:
"As mentioned last evening, we are grateful for the incredible men and women on our police force that continually serve to protect the City of Fort Worth. After a long night, we are pleased that Officer Ray Azucena was released early this morning after being treated for wounds inflicted on him and Officer Xavier Serrano after responding to a suicide call from Wharton Drive. Officer Serrano is now in stable condition after receiving excellent top tier trauma care from the medical professionals at JPS hospital.
"We are incredibly thankful for the strong community support for our police officers and their families. As a compassionate and strong community, we will continue to equip our officers so they can provide the best protection in the country as we pursue excellence in community policing. Genuine thanks are extended to all who reach out in times when our officers need them the most."
Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald released the following statement:
"Last night, our Fort Worth police officers faced the nightmare that each of us dreads, yet they responded with honor and courage to resolve a very dangerous situation. In doing so, Officers Serrano and Azucena were injured, but their prognosis is very good and they are both expected to make a full recovery from their wounds and a return to their job of protecting and serving our citizens. Officer Azucena was released from the hospital this morning and is currently recovering alongside his family.
"Officer Serrano has a longer road to recovery and remains at JPS Hospital where he is undergoing additional treatment and testing. He is lucid, and has immediate (and police) family by his bedside. The incident on Wharton is yet another reminder of the danger that police officers face daily.
"Although our duties have become more difficult over the last year, we continue to serve our communities with the pride and professionalism that you have come to expect in Fort Worth. It is important to reinforce that, in these trying times, both officers are especially thankful for the massive outpouring of support and the remainder of our department cherishes it more than we could ever express. The colleagues who extricated both injured officers while being fired upon, members of tactical teams, negotiators, and incident command staff who resolved this very dangerous situation, also deserve our thanks."
"Their courage under very stressful conditions demonstrated our commitment to the people we serve, and it is a privilege to serve alongside them.”