What started off as a school lockdown in Decatur ended in an armed standoff west of Bridgeport Tuesday morning.
With a half-dozen heavily-armed and armored SWAT team officers standing by, James Warden, 43, walked out of a house unarmed and was taken into custody by Bridgeport Police officers at 10:16 a.m.
The standoff occurred in Airport Estates, just west of the Bridgeport Municipal Airport, at a house where Warden had been staying.
Warden barricaded himself into the house after making a threat on a social networking website against a Decatur woman. The woman, an employee of Carson Elementary, and their son who is a student at Decatur High School, were taken to a secure location by Decatur Police, but both the Carson and DHS campus were locked down with high security until news of an arrest was released around mid-morning.
Warden is expected to be charged with aggravated assault and terroristic threat. He was taken to North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport for evaluation.
Bridgeport Assistant Police Chief Steve Stanford said the initial call came to them at 6:06 a.m. as a “welfare check” in the 300 block of Graben Lane.
“The Decatur Police Department was investigating a series of terroristic threats that had been made against a woman who lived within their city,” Stanford said in a news release issued at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. “The suspect had allegedly threatened to kill his wife and was believed to be heavily intoxicated and hallucinating.”
Stanford said Decatur Police had learned that Warden was also threatening to harm himself. Prior to arriving at the house, officers were told Warden had stated he would be “ready to shoot it out” with any law enforcement who attempted to make contact with him, and said he had multiple firearms with “plenty” of ammunition.
One of Warden’s posts said, in part:
“I’ve broken my silence to say I’m going to Laredo after I take care of a little business. Deadly business. I need 100 black coffins for you sorry… who claim to be my friends… When you see me coming you best run like a dog. It breaks my heart, but the world has forced this on me.”
The profanity-laced tirade goes on to say, “I hope you all go to hell. You should’ve been loyal. I’m done on this earth you … scumbags!” and closes with, “You sorry … can all go to hell where I’m probably going to go for that [sic] I’m about to do…”
Needless to say, when authorities were notified, they took the threat seriously.
MANHUNT ENDS QUICKLY
Stanford said due to the initial call being made by a cell phone, officers at first were unsure of Warden’s location. However, upon arrival at the Graben Lane location, officers made contact with a resident and quickly confirmed that Warden was at the residence, along with a female.
Officers were able to safely remove the woman from the residence without Warden’s knowledge.
The standoff was joined by officers from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Decatur Police Department, along with Texas Ranger Jim Holland. Law officers also made use of the Wise County incident command post, which gave them a location to plan and gather intelligence during the incident.
Holland was able to contact Warden via cell phone and negotiated with him to come out and surrender.
“Holland did an excellent job negotiating with the suspect,” Stanford said. “Holland’s ability to communicate and calm the suspect led to a peaceful conclusion.”
Warden was taken into custody at 10:16 a.m. and transported by Wise County EMS to North Texas Community Hospital for evaluation. It was expected that he would be booked into the Wise County Jail at some point Tuesday.
Officers executed a search warrant at Warden’s residence and recovered several firearms.
“These types of calls are very dangerous and take time to resolve,” Stanford said. “We have a common goal, which is everyone goes home safe. All departments provided great insight and resources this morning, which led to a successful conclusion.”
SCHOOLS GO TO LOCKDOWN
The Decatur Police Department and the Department of Public Safety were a very visible presence on the campuses of Carson Elementary and Decatur High School Tuesday morning, along with school officials, after the threat was brought to their attention by a phone call.
A text and voice message went out to parents explaining the threat, noting that all exterior and interior doors would be locked and monitored, with police presence on both campuses stepped up.
Superintendent Rod Townsend was at the Carson campus.
“There was a threat against one of our employees,” he said. “That employee is secure and away from here. The high school and Carson are both locked down. Both campuses are secure.”
Townsend said the campuses would continue to be in lockdown until the suspect had been “located and apprehended.
“We’ll stay in lockdown until the safety of our children is not an issue,” he added. “Safety is the top priority here. The kids are safer right here than they are anywhere.”
He asked that parents, “give us an opportunity to do our job.”
But as the reporter was leaving the campus, a mother who had come and picked up her child was explaining the presence of so many police cars.
“Why are the police cars here, Mommy?”
“They’re here to keep you safe, and I’m glad you’re safe.”
“Then why are we leaving?”
“I want you safe at home with me.”