WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — “This guy had a purpose; I knew he had a purpose when I looked into his eyes,” Walmart attempted theft witness Jamie Pruett said. “He wasn’t there to rob or steal something—he was there to hurt and kill people.”
One Central Freeway Walmart shopper came face to face with a man Friday night who now has multiple charges in Wichita County.
According to WFPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Harold McClure, officers responded to an attempted theft call about 11:20 p.m. Friday to a possible theft.
McClure said store surveillance footage showed a Comanche County Sheriff’s Office unit dropped San Antonion Ken Esparza, 38, off at the Walmart Friday night.
When they arrived, officers were told a man was attempting to break into the gun cabinet and was armed with a baseball bat. They were also told it was possibly an active shooter situation.
“”I ran back down there thinking I’ve got to protect these women and honestly, my mom came to mind. And that’s what made me go down there, was the thought of my mom. That could be my mom,” Pruett said.
Officers said when they reached Esparza, they say broken glass from the gun cabinet and a gun missing from the cabinet and Esparza holding a baseball bat. That was shortly after Pruett came face-to-face with the suspect.
“Right when I turned that corner, I come face to face with the guy and now he has an aluminum bat that he’s coming at me with it and the only thing between me and him is a cart,” Pruett said.
As officers attempted to arrest Esparza, McClure said he resisted arrest.
As for why he was dropped off in Wichita Falls, Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley said the deputies were called to a Lawton mall about Esparza allegedly stealing a knife.
Stradley said no charges were filed from that incident, and he said Esparza didn’t meet the criteria of a threat to himself or others at that time.
Stradley said Esparza told deputies he was headed to a Texas city, so Stradley told deputies to drop Esparza off at the Walmart in Wichita Falls instead of letting Esparza walk on the road.
“A person in Esparza’s mental condition should have never been brought in from OK and dropped off in Texas at a Wichita Falls Walmart, placing our citizens in extreme danger and forcing WFPD officers to deal with this highly volatile situation, which they handled with professionalism,” McClure stated.
Esparza is charged with five felony and two misdemeanor charges.
- Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
- Unlawful possession of firearms by a felon
- Terroristic threat to a public servant
- Theft of firearm
- Criminal mischief
- Resisting arrest
- Fail to identify giving false, fictitious information
Despite social media posts about the incident, WFPD officials and Walmart store management said the situation was handled quickly by officers and no shots were fired.