Officers who discharged weapons named in West University Place mass shooting

DeSai was wearing Nazi paraphernalia when he was killed by police, sources say

By Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor , Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor , Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Medical examiners have formally identified the suspect in the Sept. 26, 2016 shooting that wounded nine people as Houston lawyer Nathan DeSai, 46, police said.

Reports of a man shooting randomly on Law Street, near a shopping center on the northwest corner of Weslayan and Bissonnet streets, first came in around 6:30 a.m. 

PHOTOS: Mass shooting scene

Interim Houston Police Chief Martha Montalvo said officers who went to the scene were able to quickly locate DeSai in the 4400 block of Law Street. Police said he was using a tree as cover.

Police said DeSai began firing at the officers immediately upon arrival  and continued for almost 30 minutes. Nine officers exchanged gunfire with DeSai.

HPD officers who exchanged gunfire with the shooter were Sgt. G. Batcheler, senior police Officer B. Schmidt, Officer F. Kraidieh, Officer R. Flakes and Officer M. Muskiet, police said.  

The Bellaire Police Department officers who exchanged gunfire with the shooter were Lt. J. Cotton, Lt. R. Brown and Officer A. Proctor, according Bellaire officials.

The West University Place Police Department said Sgt. A. Gomez was one of many officers who exchanged gunfire with Desai. 

DeSai was found dead shortly after, police said. Nearly 75 shell casings were found at the scene, police said.

No officers were injured.

"It’s my understanding that he was neutralized by police," Montalvo said.

VIDEO: Police update mass-shooting investigation

Police said the man had two weapons, a .45 semi-automatic handgun and a .45 semi-automatic Thompson carbine, while standing near his car. Both guns were purchased legally in 2009 and 2011.

Police estimate around 2,500 rounds of live ammunition were found inside his vehicle.

Officials said the shooter was wearing a replica World War II German SS general's uniform with swastikas on it.

"What extent that played I don't know because there's also other historic, or what I would call vintage, military stuff in the apartment going back to the Civil War," HPD Capt. Dwayne Ready said.

VIDEO: Gunshots captured on cellphone video

Montalvo said the gunman’s car was also found on Law Street, and that at least one weapon was found inside. Police spent hours searching the vehicle.

Investigators also combed through the shooter's apartment, where they found what appeared to be Nazi paraphernalia, according to a law enforcement source. Several other weapons, ammunition and body armor were found inside the shooter's home, police said.

Police said there is no known motive. When asked if she believes the shooting was related to terrorism, Montalvo said that she is not ready to say that yet.

DeSai had no known history of mental health issues and a clean criminal record, police said. He did have a concealed-handgun license, according to authorities.

Nine people injured

Montalvo said six people were initially hospitalized because of the shooting.

A representative of Memorial Hermann Hospital Southwest said one of the injured was in critical condition and another was in good condition. Both of those patients were listed in good condition by that morning. Three others were discharged in good condition.

Another victim was listed in serious condition at Ben Taub Hospital, Montalvo said.

Three others were treated and released.

DeSai's neighbor opens up

Houston police were back at Desai's condominium complex Tuesday evening after residents reported finding bullets lodged in the buildings fence and in some units.
 
One bullet pierced Deborah Boily's condo. She's been Desai's neighbor for 14 years.
 
"We were friendly. He was a nice man, we had a good little relationship we talked to each other when we'd see each other," Boily recalled.
 
She spent the summer in Europe and sad she found it strange she didn't see Desai around the complex when she got back.
 
"He had been isolating himself a lot that's a very big sign of people with crippling depression," she said.
 
Boily said she believes Desai was a good man who was suffering from mental illness.
 
"I don't want him painted as a demon because I don't in my heart believe he was. I think he became very ill," she said.

Owner of car that was searched identified

KPRC2 has confirmed the owner of that vehicle is 46-year-old attorney Nathan DeSai.

Ken McDaniel, DeSai's former law partner, said that they decided to go their separate ways in February because of economic reasons. He said he hasn't spoken to DeSai since then.

DeSai's father, Prakash, said his son was in his own practice, but it was not doing well.

MORE: Father, former law partner talk about DeSai

DeSai owns a condo at the Oaks of Weslayan on Law Street, KPRC2 has confirmed.

According to the Texas State Bar, DeSai specializes in business, family and criminal law.

Close calls for some neighbors 

Any other day Scott Smolensky said he would have been up and walking his dog along Law Street, the street where the shooter was picking off victims. Instead he slept in.

"Technically I should be dead right now. I would have come face to face with the shooter," he said. "I feel very lucky."

As the sound of gunfire spread, so did the fear.

MORE: Victims, witnesses describe chaos

"Then I started hearing more and more they started getting closer," Matt Browning said.

"I brought my kids into my bedroom and we all huddled around my bed. I wouldn't take them to school. I wouldn't let my husband go to work because I was scared for our safety this morning," Lisa Beckman said.

Joshua Olson recorded video from his apartment.

"The (officer) was lying prone with an assault rifle, shooting at the suspect," Olson said.

Lia Panzicka heard the gunfire and went to her neighbor's house.

"Because I knew she had a weapon, a gun, to protect us," she said.

When the bullets stopped flying, she realized just how close they had actually come.

"I went outside and I could see a bullet hole in the side of the house and when I looked inside second bedroom. I could see wall had been blown out slightly," Panzicka said. "God kept me in bed today, kept me safe and not in that second bedroom."

Mayor, governor react

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is leading a trade mission to Cuba, said that he is keeping in close contact with local officials, but does not expect to cut short his trip.

VIDEO: Mayor Turner speaks from Cuba

"I am carefully monitoring the situation. That's why I had to step away and take a phone call from police and so I am carefully monitoring the situation," Turner said.

He said if one Houstonian hurts, we all hurt. He's asking everyone to pray for the victims and their families.

At this point, investigators believe the gunman acted alone and said they have not yet found any links to extremist groups.

Turner also commended officers for the outstanding work on the case.

Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement shortly after the shooting that read:

"As victims of the Houston shooting fight for their lives this morning, Cecilia and I ask that all Texans join us in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers. Our hearts go out to the victims' families and we wish them all a full and speedy recovery. We would also like to thank the Houston Police Department and all first responders for their decisive actions in putting a quick end to this horrific act."

 

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2