A dispute between neighbors over two defecating dogs at an RV park north of Early, Texas, sparked a shooting Sunday afternoon (Aug. 19) that left three people dead — the couple who owned the dogs and the suspect, who was killed after shooting at a responding Early police officer, sheriff’s officials said. The dogs were also shot to death, the Brownwood Bulletin reported.
Early is located approximately 120 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
The officer, Sgt. Steven Means, and another resident of the Peach House RV Park fired a combined 11 shots at the suspect, identified by sheriff’s officials as Charles Ronald Conner, 58. Sheriff’s officials had not released the names of the victims as of late Sunday afternoon, but described them as a couple in their 50s who were in a common-law marriage and were from out-of-state.
The shooting happened around 1:30 p.m. The Peach House RV Park, about a mile north of the Brownwood airport on U.S. Highway 183, contains about eight campers and RVs, and law enforcement officials would not allow the media beyond the entrance.
Officers with multiple agencies including the sheriff’s office, the Brownwood and Early police departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers were at the shooting scene throughout much of Sunday afternoon. Texas Ranger Danny Crawford is heading the investigation, Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said.
Conner had earlier confronted the owner of the two dogs about the animals defecating in front of his camper and had said he’d shoot the dogs if it happened again, sheriff’s officials said.
“There was obviously a disagreement between some people in the trailer park over their dogs in another individual’s yard,” Grubbs said. “I guess this had gone on a little bit before, and something sent this over the top this afternoon.
“The subject had complained about the dogs being in his yard and went over and argued with them a little, walked away, came back with a (handgun) and shot the male subject.”
Investigators believe Conner shot the man “as (the victim) was going away from him, shot him again when he was on the ground,” Grubbs said.
The man’s wife came out of their camper, screaming, “and he chased her down and shot her … at some point in time he shot the two dogs,” Grubbs said.
Another witness called 9-1-1, and investigators believe Conner fired shots with a rifle at the first officer who arrived, Grubbs said. The officer returned fire with an assault rifle at the same time another resident who saw what was happening fired at Conner with a handgun, the sheriff said. Grubbs did not know how many times Conner was shot or whether he was shot by the officer, the other resident or both.
The resident who fired at Conner “took some heat off the officer” and may have saved his life, Grubbs said.
Conner did not have a history with local law enforcement, Grubbs said. He did not believe Conner worked, and said investigators found several firearms — “five or six” — in Conner’s trailer, as well as writings that indicated Conner “had some problems or something may have just pushed him over the top. I don’t know. We’re still trying to sort this out.”
Throughout most of Sunday afternoon, vehicles with multiple law enforcement agencies were parked outside the entrance to the RV park as well as inside the park. Investigators worked to process the crime scene and the bodies of the three deceased individuals were not removed until late in the afternoon.
Means was debriefing mid-afternoon at another location, but his patrol car remained in the RV park and officers crowded around the vehicle.
American Red Cross volunteers brought drinks for officers, who worked through a scorching afternoon to process the crime scene.
Investigators were trying Sunday night to find relatives of the man and woman killed by Conner, sheriff’s officials said. One of the victims was from New York and the other was from Arizona.