With the shooting death of 18-year-old Damien Xavier Rocha-Torres early Friday morning, the total number of homicides in Killeen has risen to 25 in 2020, including Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales and a triple homicide in March.
The remains of Wedel-Morales, the Fort Hood soldier who went missing in August 2019, were found June 19 in Killeen.
With three months remaining before the turn of the calendar, Killeen approaches its highest number of homicides in a single year since 1991.
According to reports obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 30 murders in Killeen in 1991 — 23 on the same day.
On Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard, 35, of Belton, drove his pickup through the plate-glass window of a Luby’s restaurant on Central Texas Expressway during the lunch-hour rush on National Bosses Day.
Using two semi-automatic pistols, Hennard killed 22 patrons in 12 minutes of mayhem. The 23rd victim died of her injuries days later, marking the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at that time.
Citing Uniform Crime Reporting statistics from DPS on its website, KPD spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez said the highest number of homicides in the city was 2017, when there were 18.
The UCR statistics on the DPS website date back to 1999.
Killeen Chief of Police Charles Kimble said he has noticed a trend with many of the homicides.
“The homicides for this year appear to be involved in narcotics, domestic and a few with mental health,” Kimble said via email Thursday. “All cases filed with the department are cause for concern. We strive to conduct a thorough and professional investigation for each case and are dedicated to serving our community.”
In 15 of the homicides, the deceased was under the age of 25, including four teenagers and two infants.
Twenty of the homicides have been by gunshot. Two infants suffered fatal injuries in the care of adults, one man was stabbed, one woman was thrown from a balcony and the cause of one death is undetermined.
Not all prosecuted
Miramontez said that in three of the homicide cases, the Bell County grand jury has not prosecuted anyone based on information presented.
Miramontez said Friday that the cases not prosecuted by the grand jury involved the shooting deaths of James Centron Taylor Mitchell Jr. on Jan. 10, Shelby Tyler Jones on March 1 and Jared Michael Tristan on June 2.
Police said in January that Mitchell forced entry into a residence in the 4200 block of Corrine Drive and was shot by the homeowner. Mitchell died at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood.
Jones was shot at a nightclub on South Fort Hood Street. Jones died at a nearby convenience store, police said.
Tristan was shot in the 400 block of Alpine Street after displaying a knife during a physical altercation with another man. Tristan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Miramontez said all homicides are/have been investigated as criminal action. Once the information is presented to the county, it is up to the county to prosecute.
“The department has many available resources that assist us in our investigations,” Miramontez said via email Thursday. “We share the concern of our community when incidents like this happen in our city. We ask citizens when they See Something, Say Something.”