A U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and was reportedly on base during the 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas was killed early Saturday morning when a gunman burst into an apartment on McFarland Street.
Angel Robert Garcia, 30, died of his wounds while Wanda Batista Maldonado, the resident of the apartment and the apparent target in the attack, was also wounded. She was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Morristown Police Department.
The assailant, Brandon Michael McMurtury, 30, of Morristown killed himself in the apparent murder-suicide.
Maldonado’s brother, Jeremias Batista, said Garcia is a hero. Batista is married to Garcia’s ex-wife and is stepfather to his two children, but Batista said the men shared a bond like brothers. When the family moved from Florida to Morristown, Garcia moved as well, to be close to his children, treating Batista’s young daughter as one of his own.
“He was my best friend,” a tearful Batista said. “He was my brother.”
Batista said Garcia served multiple tours overseas in places like Iraq and Korea and was in his home on base when the Ft. Hood shooting occurred in Texas.
Morristown police say McMurtury forced his way the apartment shortly after midnight Saturday morning and shot both victims with a .32 caliber handgun before turning the gun on himself. All three were alive when EMTs arrived and were transported to a hospital, but McMurtury and Garcia did not survived their wounds.
The attack was not random, police said. Maldonado, Garcia and McMurtury all knew each other. And Maldonado told police that McMurtury had been harassing her.
Police say there is no record of Maldonado filing a complaint against McMurtury but McMutury had a criminal past that involved domestic violence and guns. In April of 2015, McMurtury was charged with aggravated domestic assault for allegedly threatening to shoot a 60-year-old woman with whom he lived in a different apartment complex on McFarland Street. Police confiscated a 9mm pistol and a .12-gauge shotgun in that instance.
According to an article in the Citizen Tribune archives, in May of 2002, a 13-year-old McMurtury found his father’s .38 caliber revolver while his parents were away from home and shot a friend in the face. The shooting was initially believed to be accidental but the teen was later charged with aggravated assault.
At the time a Morristown Police detective told the Citizen Tribune the teen had a single bullet in the revolver and was spinning the chamber. “The shooter pointed a gun directly at the victim and that’s when it discharged,” the detective said. “After an investigation, it was determined that hey had done this on a previous occasion.”
McMurtury denied the boys were playing Russian roulette and maintained the shooting was an accident. There is no record of the outcome of the case but in November of 2007 a 19-year-old McMurtury was charged with a violation of probation. The listing does not indicate was the violation was for or why McMurtury was on probation.