Photo credit: AP Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Todd Yates
ALICE, Texas -- Alice police officer Jose Gonzales III was supposed to report for duty at 7 a.m. Monday.
Instead, authorities said, Gonzales, wearing his police uniform pants and a jacket, and armed with police-issued rifles and handguns, went to Corpus Christi for a fatal confrontation with his commonlaw wife, who left him less than two weeks ago.
Leslie Morin, 31, died after being shot multiple times, said Ric Ortiz, chief investigator with the Nueces County medical examiner's office.
Gonzales, 44, eventually surrendered to police and was charged with murder. Bail was set at $250,000, and he was being held in the Nueces County Jail.
Authorities have not released a motive for the shooting, saying it is still under investigation.
Alice Police Chief Daniel Bueno said Gonzales had been upset about the recent separation from Morin.
"She left to Annaville; he stayed behind," Bueno said.
Police were called to the shooting about 7:30 a.m. in the 100 block of Highwood Street in Annaville.
Morin and her mother were hiding in a closet when Gonzales broke open the door, grabbed Morin and shot her, Ortiz said. Morin's mother was unharmed.
Witnesses said Gonzales left the home with the couple's 8-year-old son. Authorities worried Gonzales might hurt the boy or himself, but Bueno said Gonzales never threatened to injure his son.
Authorities in two counties searched for Gonzales before finding his pickup parked at his home in Alice within about an hour of the shooting. Bueno said officers had been driving by the home, anticipating Gonzales might go there.
During the search one of Gonzales' superiors, Alice Police Lt. Alberto Martinez, spoke with Gonzales on the phone, even praying with him in hopes of keeping him calm, Bueno said. He credited Martinez, a 22-year veteran of the department, with leading Gonzales to a peaceful surrender.
"As he kept talking to him," Bueno said, Gonzales "kept getting calmer and calmer and calmer."
"I don't think enough could be said as far as Albert's involvement in diffusing the situation," said Alice Mayor John Lemon, who also is an assistant district attorney for Jim Wells County.
"Due to Albert's diligence and staying on the phone, we were able to not only track down the suspect but also able to have as good a conclusion as we could have with no further fatalities."
Lemon called the day tragic and said his heart goes out to Morin's family. "If there's anything that the city can do for the family, please let us know," he said.
Gonzales was tracked to his house in the 1100 block of Washington Street in Alice, a one-story brick home in a quiet neighborhood where most residents had already gone to work for the day.
Yvette DeLeon was about five houses away visiting her mother when dozens of police cars swarmed the neighborhood.
DeLeon said the boy emerged from the house about 8:30 a.m., towing a small piece of luggage behind him. A short time later, she said, Gonzales emerged, hands in the air and his white T-shirt rolled up to show he had no weapons. Gonzales lay on the ground and was taken into custody, De-Leon said.
It was Martinez who convinced Gonzales to allow the child to walk to a car where his grandparents were waiting, Bueno said, and Martinez who ultimately talked Gonzales into giving up.
Another neighbor said he was outside in the morning, looking into the alleyway that separates his home from Gonzales' house, when a group of SWAT officers came running up the alley and told him to go inside. At one point, the officers perched atop another neighbor's house.
The neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he was glad when Gonzales, known to many as "Officer Joey," moved into the house, because he liked the security of having additional police presence.
"He seemed like a nice guy," the neighbor said.
Two area schools were locked down for safety Monday morning, the Alice Independent School District reported.
Police spent the afternoon searching Gonzales' house, where multicolored Christmas lights hung on the eaves.
The 8-year-old boy was taken to Corpus Christi to be interviewed by police and would be released to his grandparents, Bueno said.
Gonzales worked for the Alice Police Department from 2000 to 2007 and three more years beginning in 2008.
State records show he also has worked for the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Freer and San Diego. Bueno said he also had been employed by the U.S. Border Patrol.
"It's a tragic day when a city employee that is charged with upholding the law takes that law into their own hands, and people are hurt," City Manager Ray De Los Santos said, "but make no doubt about it, today had the potential to be much worse than it has been."
The day's events stunned the close-knit Alice Police Department, which has about 50 employees.
"To some of my people here, it still hasn't sunk in," Bueno said.
He didn't know Morin personally but had met her when she attended department Christmas parties with Gonzales.
"I like to say we're family," Bueno said. "It does put a sad chapter in our lives. I've been here 34 years. This is my second home. To see something like this is very difficult, but we want to go on, and we must continue to provide our community with the best service we can."
A staff meeting was planned for today, with counselors and a priest expected to be available to employees.
Staff writer Mike Baird contributed to this report.