Two bounty hunters and the fugitive from Minnesota they were tracking shot each other dead in a hail of bullets at a Texas car dealership in front of panicked customers, officials said Wednesday.
The two men, identified by authorities as Fidel Garcia and Gabriel Bernal from Corpus Christi, had pursued Ramon Michael Hutchinson, 49, on Tuesday to a Nissan dealership in Greenville, located about 50 miles northeast of Dallas.
Stew Peters, a bail investigator with the private Minnesota-based company U.S. Fugitive Recovery and Extradition, told the Associated Press that Hutchinson had been sought since March when he failed to appear for a court hearing in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis. Hutchinson, listed in court records as a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, was facing several charges that included assaulting a law enforcement officer.
The two had tracked Hutchinson to the dealership, and after waiting for several hours, approached him Tuesday evening.
Garcia and Bernal then drew their weapons and Hutchinson responded by drawing his own pistol, which he dropped, according to a statement from Kathy Lucas, spokeswoman for the city of Greenville. The men fought as Hutchinson retrieved his weapon and began firing. The other two fired as well and Lucas said about 20 shots were fired in the span of six seconds. Customers and employees fled for cover.
Cell phone video released Wednesday by the city of Greenville and posted by FOX 4 News shows the moments before several rounds of shots ring out.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO BELOW
The video shows Garcia and Bernal confront Hutchinson in an office with a dealership employee and another woman inside when the gunfire began. An employee was also with two customers in the office right next to them, but none of them was hurt.
A woman at the dealership called 911 while hiding in the bathroom. “Please hurry,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “I hear a woman screaming.”
"Mr. Garcia felt the defendant would ultimately appear at that dealership," Peters told the AP. "Unfortunately Mr. Hutchinson was more prepared for a gunfight."
Rick Ford, the owner of the dealership, told FOX 4 the bounty hunters came into the showroom and identified themselves as federal agents. Ford said he and his employees didn't give the men permission to be in the showroom, but never asked them to leave or to show their badges.
Peters told the AP he didn't know Bernal, but had been friends with Garcia for a decade and said he would not misrepresent himself.
"He always performed his investigations with the utmost integrity," Peters said, adding that Garcia commonly wore both audio and visual recording devices while working. It's not known if he was wearing the devices Tuesday.
Garcia sat on the board of the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators and another board member, Bradley Smith, described him to the AP as a "gentle giant."
"He was a big man and he had a big heart to go with it," Smith said.
Private investigators registered in Texas are licensed through the state Department of Public Safety, according to Smith, who added that bail-bond companies seeking fugitives in Texas are required to use registered investigators.
Tuesday's shooting was the second time in about a month in the U.S. when violence erupted as private groups were attempting to apprehend fugitives.
Authorities in Tennessee say seven people they described as bounty hunters shot at four people in a car April 23 in Clarksville, killing one man and injuring another. It appears the larger group targeted the wrong vehicle and all seven have been indicted on first-degree murder charges. Not one of the men in the car was wanted on outstanding charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.