In Coldwater, where the chase ended in the early afternoon, a body lay in the road beneath a sheet. In Cleburne County, where the chain of events began that morning, authorities were working to identify three bodies at a crime scene in a trailer park.
Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown identified the dead man in Coldwater later Saturday as Romero Roberto Moya, 33. Authorities did not say explicitly Saturday that Moya was responsible for the deaths of three people at the Guzman Trailer Park south of Heflin, but they said he was the man who’d led police on a chase that began after officers there began looking for the shooter.
Cleburne County sheriff's deputies arrived at the trailer park, seven miles south of Heflin on Alabama 9, sometime around 10 a.m. Investigator Dennis Green of the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office said Saturday night that the three dead there were all Hispanic males but that authorities were uncertain of their ages. Green said the shooter was likely the brother of the victims but officials don’t know that for sure.
“We think we know who they are but we don’t have a positive ID at this time,” he said.
A child younger than age 2 had also been injured, and was later flown to a Georgia hospital, Green said. The child's mother also was at the trailer park, but was unharmed, Green said. No other information on the child's condition was immediately available.
Some time later Cleburne County authorities began chasing a man driving a black sedan. The chase led to Oxford, where Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said the man crashed the car at U.S. 78 and Jimmy Hinton Drive, in the middle of a busy retail district near an interchange with Interstate 20.
Partridge said officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who fired an AK-47 assault rifle, injuring a Heflin police officer. The officer was taken to Regional Medical Center. A post on the Heflin Police Department Facebook page Saturday night identified the officer as Jackie Stovall.
"He's got a long, tough road to recovery ahead of him," read the post, attributed to A.J. Benefield, the interim police chief.
The gunman ran to a Nissan coupe stopped at the intersection, pulled the occupants from the car and drove it north into Anniston on Leon Smith Parkway, police said.
About two hours later the Nissan was spotted driving south on Bynum-Leatherwood Road, initiating another multi-agency chase, Partridge said. That chase led south and west on Alabama 202 in the Coldwater area, then onto Taylors Chapel Road and Beck Road, then south to U.S. 78, Partridge said.
That’s where the Nissan crashed into a Toyota Corolla, near U.S. 78’s intersection with Beck Road, where members of the Oxford police SWAT team were waiting.
As Moya exited the Nissan, Partridge said, he reached for the assault rifle, and two SWAT team members shot and killed him.
“He confronted our officers by exiting the vehicle in a threatening manner,” Partridge said.
Moya’s body lay in the roadway on U.S. 78 Saturday afternoon, next to the Nissan, its driver-side door marked with bullet holes.
The woman driving the Toyota received minor injuries in the crash, Partridge said.
In Heflin on Saturday afternoon, authorities at City Hall would confirm only that a police officer was injured and being treated at RMC in Anniston.
Investigators combed carefully over the sites in Oxford, Coldwater and Cleburne County throughout the day on Saturday.
Yellow police tape circled the black sedan in Oxford, its rear end smashed into the rear end of a white SUV. Nearby sat an empty Heflin police cruiser, its blue lights flashing, its driver-side door hanging open. Police officers surrounded the crash site and picked over the scene, marking spent shell casings from the gunfight with yellow placards.
Authorities directed traffic away from the Coldwater scene at least a quarter mile from the crash site. Police cars lined both sides of the highway.
Within another police-tape perimeter, the stolen Nissan and the Toyota sat empty just off the road. The rear passenger-side door of the Corolla was crumpled like paper from the impact.
Nearby, residents clustered on their lawns and watched as police collected evidence and again marked shell casings with yellow placards.
The gunman’s body lay on the pavement, covered by a white sheet for much of the afternoon, only his black-and-red Nike tennis shoes exposed.
In Cleburne County, sheriff’s deputies blocked a driveway across from a Tyson chicken plant on a rural stretch of Alabama 9 south of Interstate 20, just north of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church and the Emrick-Nolan Feed & Seed store. The area is dotted with houses and mobile homes. The driveway, marked by a sign labeled “Guzman Trailers Park,” led up a hill to where officials investigated the crime scene. Vehicles entered and exited the scene throughout the afternoon, including a wrecker that hauled away an older-model pickup truck.
Investigators in Cleburne County said the Alabama Bureau of Investigations is leading the inquiry into the shootings there. Green, the Cleburne sheriff’s investigator, said the shooting there stemmed from an incident of domestic violence.
Green said a number of agencies responded to the several scenes related to this incident, including Anniston police, who arrived in Cleburne County with a mobile crime scene unit.
Meanwhile, up the road from the trailer park, investigators collected evidence in front of Millwork Sales & Surplus, a company whose sign advertised doors, windows, molding and columns. Green said that crime scene stemmed from the shooting at the trailer park.
Oxford police said other agencies involved in the incidents there today included Heflin police, the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama State Troopers, and the Calhoun-Cleburne County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.
“Everybody worked together and that made it easier on us,” Green said.
With more shootings and deaths reported in two separate incidents in Birmingham, Green said he didn’t know what to attribute such violence to.
“But that’s a tragic thing” he said. “That one yesterday in Connecticut, you think that’s something you hear about that happens somewhere else. We don’t think about it happening here in our county. But we just have to work and deal with it.”
Star staffers Laura Johnson, Bill Wilson and Stephen Gross reported from Oxford. Paige Rentz reported from Cleburne County. Rachael Griffin and Ben Cunningham reported from Anniston.