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 Austin’s first homicide of 2020.
It began when the alleged attacker, who police only identified as a 27-year-old male, struck a person inside the coffee shop “for no apparent reason,” according to Austin police. He then fled a few doors down to Freebirds World Burrito, where he stabbed two people before escaping to the roof and jumping.
By Friday night, police said the wounded person was in stable but serious condition, and the suspect was in critical condition.
“This guy out of nowhere just hit him in the back of the head with something,” said Stacy Romine, 33, who was getting her drink at Bennu Coffee when she saw the attack at a table full of regulars. “People 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.”
Authorities said both stabbing victims worked at the restaurant. Emergency responders described the person who died as a man in his 20s.
Hours after the attack, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speculated on Twitter that the attacker was homeless with a criminal record, fanning an ongoing feud with Austin’s liberal leaders over people living on the streets. Police, however, have publicly offered few details on the suspect, and Abbott spokesman John Wittman would not comment beyond the governor’s tweet.
Last year, Austin relaxed ordinances on public camping, a move that made homelessness more visible downtown. Abbott has previously shared videos that he claims captures the dangers of the new policy, but they include videos criticized as misleading, including one of a man whose attorney later said wasn’t homeless and suffered from mental illness.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Friday night he didn’t know the stabbing suspect’s housing situation but called the governor’s tweet disappointing, saying it suggested that the homeless are dangerous.
“It’s harmful to a community when we demonize people like that falsely, misleading. There’s a real price,” Adler 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.