The man arrested in connection with a deadly shooting rampage at an off-campus college Halloween and homecoming party in East Texas has been released after an investigation revealed “exculpatory evidence,” authorities say.
Brandon Gonzales, a father of three, was arrested one day after violence erupted Oct. 27 at the Party Venue outside Greenville. Gunfire at the packed party near the campus of Texas A&M-Commerce killed two people, left 12 more injured and ignited “complete chaos” as hundreds of panicked partygoers scrambled for safety.
At Gonzales’ first court appearance on Oct. 30, sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Haines said investigators were “100%, without a doubt” certain Gonzales was the shooter.
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks defended the initial arrest warrant in a statement Tuesday, saying it was based on credible information and statements given to investigators.
“Law enforcement has diligently investigated this case and in the days since the arrest, additional information has come to light,” Meeks said Tuesday. Due to the new evidence he did not reveal, along with a lack of cooperation from witnesses, he said he had asked the county prosecutor to “take no action on Mr. Gonzales’ case at this time” and release Gonzalez from custody.
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Meeks said the investigation was continuing, and he asked that anyone who was at the party or might otherwise have information reach out to law enforcement.
“Though individuals may have reasons for not wishing to come forward, we ask that they do so and tell law enforcement what you saw and heard that night no matter how small the information may be,” Meeks said. “They may not know the importance of any information they have.”
Gonzales was jailed Oct. 28 on a $1 million bond, charged with capital murder after an arrest affidavit said a confidential informant told the Sheriff’s Office that Gonzales was the gunman. Killed in the shooting was Kevin Berry Jr. of Dallas and Byron Craven Jr. of Arlington, both 23.
When the arrest was announced, Meeks said authorities believed Gonzales acted alone and had targeted a specific individual.
Gonzales told WFAA-TV that he had attended the party dressed as a security guard but was not inside when the shooting took place. The arrest affidavit quoted the confidential informant as saying Gonzales was seen in line to enter the hall and participating in a dice game with a large crowd in a restroom. The witness said that seconds after Gonzales emerged from the restroom, he opened fire on the hall.
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Gonzales said he was arrested the next day at the car dealership where he works. He was released Tuesday night.
“I was about to go to sleep, and then a guard came in and told me to get all my things,” Gonzales told the TV station. “I was like, ‘I’m going home?'”
Activist Jeff Hood, who organized a weekend protest of the arrest, said Gonzales should never have been locked up.
“Ultimately this case illustrates the incompetence of law enforcement in Hunt County,” Hood said Tuesday night. “The spirit of justice has arrived and Brandon Gonzales is now free.”