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SAPD: Officer Shot Airport Suspect Twice But Suspect Killed Himself

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Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
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San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said that "we were lucky not to have a lot people injured or killed."

San Antonio police explained in a statement on Friday that Park Police Officer John Maines, an 11-year veteran of the force, shot a suspect twice during an active shooting incident at the San Antonio International Airport on Thursday.

However, the statement added, an autopsy determined the suspect's fatal wound was self-inflicted.

On Saturday, the Bexar County Medical Examiner identified the suspect as 46-year old Joe Gomez of San Antonio. His cause of death was listed as a contact gunshot wound to the head. His manner of death was listed as a suicide.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus explained at a Thursday press conference that the incident began at 2:30 p.m.

The statement on Friday explained that Maines, 41, was at his post at the airport when he heard another officer warn that a vehicle was moving the wrong way from the exit and towards the lower Terminal B area.

Maines walked towards the vehicle, which stopped in front of Terminal B. The statement explained that Gomez exited his vehicle.

"The suspect then began shooting a handgun in the direction of the officer, numerous bystanders and passing vehicles in the terminal area," the statement added.

Maines returned fire, "and the suspect was struck two times."

Gomez was transported to an area hospital. An autopsy by the Bexar County medical examiner determined the wounds inflicted by Maines were non fatal.

"The Medical Examiner also determined that the fatal wound was self-inflicted," the statement explained. "According to the evidence at the scene, it appears the suspect shot himself after being wounded by Officer Maines."

Police said on Thursday that Gomez was armed with a .45-caliber handgun and had a box of ammunition.

Maines was not injured. It was not immediately clear if any members of the public were injured.

The incident prompted airport officials to evacuate hundreds of people from the terminals.

Doug Rousini of San Antonio was in the terminal. He recalled first seeing "a herd of people just running down the terminal."

He then saw personnel from the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, also fleeing from something. One woman with TSA yelled, "Run!" he remembered, and "then somebody said there's a shooter."

Rousini grabbed his baggage and ran.

He and others reached an exit, and he found himself in a crowded stairwell.

“Like a thousand people converging on that stairwell," Rousini said, "I was sitting there screaming, 'stop pushing, don’t push, don’t push, let everybody through.' Because I just kept … the only running through my mind was just getting back to my family and the thought of that not happening.”

Police believed Gomez was the same person firing a weapon from an overpass at Highway 281 and Loop 1604 earlier Thursday.

McManus said Gomez was known to the police department and might have suffered from mental health issues.

The chief called Maines a hero. He added that "we were lucky not to have a lot people injured or killed."

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary ground stop but by late Thursday afternoon air traffic had resumed.

During the COVID-19 briefing Thursday night, Mayor Ron Nirenberg thanked Maines. He said officers will not hesitate to use lethal force if a dangerous situation develops.

"There's of course de-escalation leading up to that," he explained, "but once it's an active shooter, police in San Antonio and across this country are taught to neutralize that threat to the public."

Nirenberg added that the federal government advises residents who find themselves in possible mass shooting scenario to run if they can, hide if they can't run, and fight if they can't hide or run.

The statement explained that Maines will be on administrative duty while an SAPD shooting team investigates the incident. Their findings will be forwarded to the Bexar County district attorney's office.

Brian Kirkpatrick and Dan Katz contributed to this report.

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