AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A man stabbed two people, one fatally, inside a restaurant during a violent string of attacks Friday at a shopping plaza in Texas’ capital city that began with an assault at a coffee shop and ended with the suspect leaping off a roof, police said.
The attacks on a busy downtown avenue of restaurants and apartments just south of the Texas Capitol terrified customers stopping for their morning coffee on the way to work. It was the city of Austinâ€™s first homicide of 2020.
Austin police Sgt. David Daniels said investigators don’t know what provoked the suspect to strike a person inside a coffee shop before fleeing and stabbing two people inside Freebirds World Burrito a few doors down. The man , who police would only identify as 27 years old, jumped off the roof of the restaurant but survived.
Stacy Romine, 33, said she was getting her drink at Bennu Coffee when she saw someone strike a man who was sitting with a table full of regulars.
â€œThis guy out of nowhere just hit him in the back of the head with something,â€ Romine said. â€œPeople tried to restrain him and stop him from leaving the store after it happened. But he could not be apprehended by three men, including a police officer.â€
Daniels said he did not know whether the stabbing victims at Freebirds were employees. None of the victims were identified, but Austin-Travis County EMS said one man in his 20s was pronounced dead at the scene. Daniels said a knife was involved in the attack but did not say whether it came from the restaurant.
Hours after the attack, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speculatedon Twitterthat the attacker was homeless with a criminal record,fanning an ongoing feudwith Austin’s liberal leaders over people living on the streets. Police, however, had not publicly said whether the stabbing suspect was homeless, and Abbott spokesman John Wittman would not comment beyond the governor’s tweet.
Abbott has previously shared videos on Twitter that he claims captures the dangers of the cityâ€™s new policy, but those videos includes ones that were old and criticized as misleading. One video Abbott tweeted featured a man whose attorney later said wasnâ€™t homeless and suffered from mental illness.
After the stabbing suspect ran out of the coffee shop, Romine said she saw him jump from the roof of Freebirds and did not move after hitting the ground. Daniels said the suspect was transported to a hospital but did not know his condition.
Daniels praised customers who tried to stop the man at the coffee shop before he fled to Freebirds.
â€œWe don’t recommend individuals getting involved in a situation, but they chose to do that, and it was helpful,â€ Daniels said.
In 2017, one student was killed and three others wounded in a random stabbing attack at the University of Texas campus in Austin. In that case, the assailant was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.
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