Community mourns first San Marcos police officer killed in the line of duty

UPDATE – 2:46 p.m., Dec. 7 

Hays County authorities have formally charged the man suspected of shooting and killing San Marcos Police officer Kenneth Copeland on Dec. 4.

Stewart Thomas Mettz has been charged with capital murder of a peace officer, as well as injury to an elderly person, which is a third-degree felony. Mettz was also charged with assault causing bodily injury, family violence, according to a press release.

Stewart Thomas Mettz. Photo courtesy of the city of San Marcos.

Bond has been set at $500,000 for the latter two charges. Hays County Justice of the Peace Maggie H. Moreno did not set bond for the capital murder charge.

Mettz is currently awaiting transport from an Austin area hospital to the Hays County Jail. He is currently under 24-hour guard by Hays County Sheriff’s deputies, according to the release.

According to a Hays County probable cause affidavit, Copeland responded to Mettz’ residence in the 100 block of Valero Drive in San Marcos Dec. 4 to serve a felony arrest warrant.

When officers arrived and knocked on the front door, Mettz opened the door and began firing an unknown caliber firearm at the officers, who then returned fire.

Copeland was struck by gunfire and later died as a result of his injuries, according to the affidavit.

Mettz suffered a gunshot wound to his left side and was provided first aid by a peace officer.

While first aid was provided to Mettz, a law enforcement official read Mettz his Miranda rights.

Mettz allegedly said he had shot a police officer approximately two times in the chest, according to the affidavit. He then claimed the gunshot wound he had was inflicted by an officer.

Funeral arrangements have also been set for Copeland, whose body was escorted by law enforcement to Thomason Funeral Home in San Marcos.

Visitation will be held Dec. 12 at Thomason Funeral Home on Old Ranch Road 12. The public is welcome from 2 to 10 p.m.

Funeral services will be held at Community Bible Church in San Antonio. Internment ceremonies will follow immediately on the church grounds.

EARLIER

A “hero” who always provided for his family, even if it meant working on his day off, was how San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp tearfully described the qualities of officer Kenneth Copeland Monday.

Stapp, along with the San Marcos and Hays County communities, all mourned the loss of Copeland, 58, who tragically became the first San Marcos Police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Stapp said Copeland was supposed to have been off Monday, but chose to pick up a shift to help the department. Copeland is survived by his wife and four children. 

San Marcos Police Officer Kenneth Copeland leaves behind a wife and four children.

On Tuesday, multiple media reports identified the suspect in the shooting as Stewart Thomas Mettz, 51, of San Marcos. However, records show Mettz has not been booked into the Hays County Jail at this time.

“He worked even on his day off to provide for his kids, and because he knew we were shorthanded,” Stapp said.

Copeland, a veteran of the force and a longtime law enforcement officer, was fatally wounded while he was serving a warrant in the El Camino Real community in south San Marcos off Highway 123. Stapp said Copeland and several other San Marcos Police officers were serving a warrant to a man wanted for a “violent crime.”

Shortly after arriving at the residence, the suspect, who still has not been identified, began to fire a weapon at officers in an “ambush” style. Copeland was stuck several times and was quickly extricated from the scene by fellow officers.

Copeland was immediately rushed to Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos in a police car. Stapp said officers tried to save Copeland’s life while he was being transported to the hospital.

Copeland, however, was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m. by Hays County Justice of the Peace JoAnn Prado. Copeland was wearing his protective vest, but Stapp said it “did not save him.” Stapp added he didn’t believe the bullets penetrated his protective vest.

After Copeland was transported from the scene, San Marcos Police officers set up a perimeter around the suspect’s home. Providing assistance was the Hays County SWAT team and the Hays County Crisis Negotiation Team, who helped to force the suspect to surrender peacefully.

A motorcade of local law enforcement turned out in force to escort the body of San Marcos Police Officer Kenneth Copeland’s from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office to Thomason Funeral Home in San Marcos. (photo by Samantha Smith)

Officers took the suspect into custody and discovered he had a gunshot wound. Stapp said it is unknown if the suspect’s wound was self-inflicted or if he was shot by officers on the scene. The suspect’s condition is unknown at this time.

Stapp said San Marcos Police has mobilized its stress management team to help fellow officers.

Local and state leaders soon began offering support and condolences to the San Marcos Police family.

On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott authorized lowering the Texas flags in San Marcos to half-staff to honor Copeland.

San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp at the press conference held for the death of San Marcos Police Officer Kenneth Copeland. (photo by Moses Leos III)

In a statement, Abbott said the state grieves for Copeland’s family, and “we vow swift justice for the killer.”

“The men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to protect and to serve our communities, and we will never forget their sacrifices,” Abbott said in a statement. “Cecila and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the officer’s family and to the entire San Marcos Police Department.”

State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) said in a statement he was “deeply saddened by the reckless murder that took the life of one of our courageous police officers.”

“It is imperative that we unite as communities and as Texans against such egregious acts of violence against the brave men and women who serve and protect us daily. My family and I are praying for peace and comfort for the family of this fallen hero,” Isaac said.

San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides said the city is mourning together and that the message to citizens is for people to come together now “more than ever.”

“Citizens must show their support for all of the men and women in our public safety divisions. This is their daily reality and it rips your heart out,” Thomaides said.

Bert Lumbreras, San Marcos city manager, also advocated for residents to support law enforcement and Copeland’s family. He said the city will continue to celebrate his life.

“I assure you, the city of San Marcos will band together to support the family and be there for his legacy and continue to celebrate his life,” Lumbreras said.

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