Levelland, TX – Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) SWAT Commander Sergeant Josh Bartlett was murdered in the line of duty during an armed standoff on Thursday afternoon.
The incident began at approximately 1:12 p.m., when police received a report that someone was “possibly armed” in the 1100-block of 10th Street, KLBK reported.
According to a neighbor, the male suspect was acting strangely and walking around outside carrying a gun, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Levelland police responded to the home and tried to speak with the armed man, but he refused to talk to them and headed into his house, according to police.
He then opened fire on the officers from his doorway, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
The LCSO SWAT Team responded to the scene at 2:15 p.m. to assist the Levelland Police Department (LPD) with “reports of a barricaded subject with reports of shots fired,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
Police said the suspect, later identified as 22-year-old Omar Soto-Chavira, was firing bullets “in all directions” from inside a home, KLTV reported.
LPD Chief Albert Garcia told reporters the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers had also dealt with Soto-Chavira on an unrelated traffic stop at approximately 11 a.m. the same day, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
He was allegedly driving recklessly and became confrontational with troopers during that encounter, Chief Garcia said.
Shortly after LCSO SWAT arrived at the scene of the standoff Thursday night, Soto-Chavira unleashed another barrage of bullets, hitting five law enforcement officers, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
Three officers were treated for injuries and released, Chief Garcia told reporters.
LPD Sergeant Shawn Wilson was immediately taken into emergency surgery, and was listed in critical but stable condition as of 11:30 p.m., according Chief Garcia.
Sgt. Bartlett was rushed to Covenant Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
Multiple agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), rushed to the scene to render assistance as the deadly standoff continued, KLTV reported.
Soto-Chavira continued to fire at officers throughout the 11-hour ordeal.
Police eventually had the electrical power to the entire block cut off and sent robots into the home, KLTV reported.
They located the gunman alone in the bathroom and deployed chemical agents to drive him out into another area of the residence where law enforcement had more of a tactical advantage.
Soto-Chavira surrendered at approximately 11:30 p.m. and was taken into custody.
Chief Garcia said the suspect appeared to be injured and was transported to a hospital in Lubbock for treatment.
“It’s tough for me to put into a lot of words the loss,” Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe told reporters, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “My heart, our hearts and, I know, the hearts of the entire country are with his wife and family.”
Sgt. Bartlett, a U.S. Army veteran who served overseas, had been with the LCSO for nine years, Sheriff Rowe told KXAS.
“Josh was a true servant,” the sheriff said. “He personified the true professional in law enforcement, especially here in Texas law enforcement.”
Sgt. Bartlett leaves behind his wife and three sons, KCBD reported.
Two days before his murder, the veteran deputy’s family celebrated his youngest teen’s birthday.
Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish released a statement saying Sgt. Bartlett’s death should serve as “a solemn reminder of the risks our brave law enforcement officers face while protecting our communities,” KCBD reported.
“I ask all Lubbock County citizens to join us in praying for his family, for healing for the other officers who were injured in the standoff, and for the entire Lubbock County Sheriff’s Department,” Parrish said.
He ordered the flags at all Lubbock County buildings be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sgt. Bartlett’s sacrifice, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
RIP SWAT Commander Sgt. Josh Bartlett. He leaves behind a wife and three sons. 😔🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/IuSlHy44LR
— Blair Sabol (@BlairSabolTV) July 16, 2021
A hard night for so many. Lubbock Co SWAT leader, Sgt. Josh Bartlett died at Covenant Levelland after being shot in this ongoing standoff. There are no words. pic.twitter.com/rml5iKyzgr
— Bryan Mudd (@BryanMuddKAMC) July 16, 2021
The Jones lit in blue tonight in honor of fallen Sgt. Josh Bartlett. pic.twitter.com/4xUTutlFT0
— Blair Sabol (@BlairSabolTV) July 16, 2021
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Commander Sergeant Josh Bartlett, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Sergeant Josh Bartlett, your life mattered.