One dead and a family torn apart by courthouse shooter
A man on trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child for allegedly having sexual relations with his daughter in a case that has dragged on for nearly a decade went on a shooting rampage outside the Jefferson County Courthouse Wednesday, March 14, killing one person and injuring three others.
Bartholomew Granger, 41, has been charged with murder and is currently being held at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility. No bond was set. Additional charges are forthcoming.
Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary and other law enforcement officials expressed their disbelief after Granger, who suffered two gunshot wounds to his left side and a grazing to the side of his head during his apprehension, was released from the hospital the same day after being treated for what turned out to be only minor wounds.
“He took a lot of gunfire,” said Singletary, referring to the truck that Granger was in while creeping away from the courthouse and exchanging gunfire with members of both the Beaumont Police Department and deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was a classic shootout,” Singletary said.
In all, more than 50 rounds were spent by both Granger and law enforcement, with a healthy portion of those punching bullet holes in the 2001 GMC Pickup Granger was driving. Beaumont Police also indicated late Wednesday night that Granger was combative with authorities while being transported to jail. No law enforcement officials were injured during the rampage. According to police, they received the call at 11:21 a.m. of shots fired in front of the courthouse, and by noon, they had the suspect in custody.Minnie Ray Seabolt, a 79-year-old Deweyville resident, was pronounced dead at the entrance of the courthouse. It is believed she was there to visit the Veterans Affairs office for a friend. Granger’s daughter, who was shot and also run over by Granger, was taken to an area hospital where she is listed in critical condition. Granger’s ex-wife and a Hispanic man who was shot were both treated and released. Both the ex-wife and the daughter had testified against Granger in the trial.
Late Wednesday night, ABC-12 in Houston reported that Granger’s brother, Lyndon Granger, 43, was arrested in Houston in connection with aggravated sexual assault related to his brother’s case. Beaumont Police Officer Carol Riley said both Granger brothers had been accused of sexually assaulting Granger’s daughter. Lyndon was arrested by Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies and was expected to be taken back to Beaumont. His bond had been revoked “to keep the public safe,” according to the ABC report.
The Granger brothers had filed a federal lawsuit against Houston Police, and Harris and Jefferson counties, and others seeking $250 million for mental anguish related to the sexual assault charges, which the brothers said were false. The lawsuit was dismissed.
The seven Beaumont Police officers and two Jefferson County Sheriff deputies who exchanged gunfire with Granger have been placed on administrative leave, Singletary said. It is standard procedure for officers to be placed on leave after firing their weapon. It is not a disciplinary action.
Zena Stephens, chief deputy of law enforcement for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said the sheriff’s office will be the lead investigator on the case but that the Beaumont PD, FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers and ATF are assisting with the investigation.
Wednesday’s events brought the area outside the generally busy Jefferson County Courthouse to a nervous standstill right around lunchtime when Granger, who was standing trial for allegedly sexually assaulting his daughter, came out to a truck registered to his brother, Ulysses Granger, and brought out what police believe was a Beretta CX4 Storm Carbine, an assault-style rifle.According to reports and witness at the scene, Granger’s trial, which started on Tuesday, March 13, had recessed for lunch. That’s when Granger returned to the parking lot, grabbed a gun from his truck and fired at both his ex-wife and daughter in the parking lot, Singletary said.
One man who was looking at records in the deeds and records office of the courthouse had stepped outside for a cigarette and “some sunshine” and was heading back into the courthouse when he heard gunshots in the parking lot.The man, who is from out of town, wished not to have his name used, as he was still visibly shaken less than an hour after the shooting.
“A man with a gun fired into some people at the parking lot,” said the witness. “He was a young looking man, maybe in his 30s, well-dressed. He turned and fired into the front of the courthouse; some were wounded, I was fortunate that I was not hit. Across the street, he jumped into his truck – it looked tan – headed into the other parking lot. There were more gunshots, his windows were busted out, and then he turned westerly.”
The witness said he clearly saw a rifle: “It must’ve been a high-powered rifle.
“I tried to figure out what was going on, but self-protection kicks in,” the witness said, who added he hit the ground after he heard the shots being fired. He said Granger fired at the people in the parking lot “practically at point-blank range.”
After Granger finally drove off, the witness, who wasn’t far from the entrance, said he noticed Seabolt lying in front of the entrance.“I did not see her go down, but when I finally got back up, she was there in a puddle of blood. I didn’t see any actual wounds, but I knew there was some serious damage. It looked like she was alive and breathing, but it did not look good at all.”After shooting both his ex-wife and daughter, now 20 years old, Granger got back into his truck and ran his daughter over with the truck. Singletary said the young woman, whose name has not been released, had already testified against her father the previous day and was set to testify again in rebuttal.
After jumping a curb to get out of the parking lot, Granger drove the truck southbound on Pearl Street, exchanging gunfire with authorities before taking a right on Milam and driving about two blocks before he took a left on Park Street and stopped the truck right in front of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce building thanks to a left front tire that had blown out. He then got out on foot and ran into the RCI building in the 1100 block of Neches, which is the next street over. Inside RCI, he took a couple of hostages.Joe Smith, who works at RCI, said he was in his office when he heard a commotion and thought there had been an explosion because several workers were running from the building.
“Everyone was running outside, and that is when I found out it was a hostage situation and some of our guys were still inside. At this point, I don’t know if they are OK.”
But they would be OK. The hostages were able to overtake Granger, subdue him and take his weapon. The Beaumont Police SWAT team quickly apprehended him.
Crystal Holmes, who is a trained hostage negotiator for BPD, said at no point did the suspect try to call police. Rather, she contacted one of hostages inside RCI on his cell phone and asked about the situation. She indicated the suspect wanted to speak with his mother after one of the hostages had handed Granger the phone.
“They got prepared and those hostages ended that,” she said. “I explained to them the situation and I could hear the tone change in their voice. I asked if they had a plan and they confirmed they did. They waited until he was in a lull and one of the hostages kicked him and swept him to the floor. At that point another hostage swept the gun further away from the suspect and they jumped on him. They open a heavy steel door so our SWAT guys could make entry and one of our guys had to pull one of the hostages off the suspect.
“Those guys decided they were not going to be victims. They took action and came up with a plan and executed that plan perfectly. And they should be commended for what they did because they ended the situation.”
Deputy Stephens said she was pleased with how the Jefferson County Courthouse security reacted to the scene, and reminded media members that Granger did not get into the courthouse with his gun, but rather retreated outside to inflict terror on his family and innocent bystanders.
“This is a tragedy for the community,” Stephens said. “The officers responded wonderfully to the threat.”
Chief Singletary, who has 40 years of law enforcement experience and has been on the job less than six months as the top cop in Beaumont, said he’d never experienced anything like on Wednesday.
“This was an extensive crime scene,” said Singletary. “This is one of the worst situations officers can be confronted with. You had an individual who was shooting at us and shooting like crazy. He took the stance that today was the day he was going to do some damage, and he did.”
But Singletary was very proud of the job his officers did on Wednesday: “Our guys engaged him and disabled him and the vehicle from getting further than four blocks. If he could’ve gotten away from us and out of those four blocks, in that guy’s frame of mind, there’s no telling what he would’ve done. Our guys did a hell of a job.”Jerry Jordan contributed to this report.