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Suspect in deadly Levelland standoff indicted on capital murder, attempted capital murder charges

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 5:05 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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LEVELLAND, Texas (KCBD) - The Hockley County District Attorney announced a grand jury’s decision to indict a Levelland man on a capital murder charge after a deadly SWAT standoff in Levelland on July 15, 2021. He was also indicted on a charge of attempted capital murder of a peace officer.

Omar Soto-Chavira, 22, is accused of shooting and killing 38-year-old Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office SWAT commander Josh Bartlett and severely injuring Sgt. Shawn Wilson of the Levelland Police Department.

Omar Soto-Chavira arrives at the Lubbock County Detention Center on Wednesday, July 21, 2020,...
Omar Soto-Chavira arrives at the Lubbock County Detention Center on Wednesday, July 21, 2020, after leaving the hospital.(KCBD Photo)

The grand jury met Wednesday in Levelland. The Hockley County D.A., the Hockley County Sheriff’s Office, the Levelland Police Department, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety held a news conference to discuss the indictment and the new charge.

“We’ve got more (charges) to come. We’re just getting started,” said Angela Overman, Hockley County District Attorney.

Levelland Police Chief Albert Garcia said, “This is just the start of probably many charges that we have ready to present, or that are getting prepared to present, not ready, but we are working diligently on trying to get all these charges filed with the District Attorney’s office. This is going to be a very long and extensive process, so we definitely want to let everyone know, from Hockley County, from Levelland Police Department, the citizens of Levelland, how much we greatly appreciate all the support, how much we appreciate all the outside agency assistance that we’ve had. This has been overwhelming, but it has been humbling to see how much support we have in West Texas.”

“If he is convicted of shooting and killing a police officer, then I will ask for the death penalty,” said Overman.

“(Soto-Chavira) will remain on our roster, he is our inmate, but we have contracted with another county to house him,” said Hockley County Sheriff Ray Scifres. “I think that was the consensus that was the responsible thing to do. So he’s going to be there. He won’t step foot in my jail, and again until we have an outcome in this case, he will not step foot in the Hockley County Jail, but I will be the last face he sees if he is convicted and goes off to Huntsville.”

When it comes to the timeframe of the case, Sheriff Scifres said, “we’re months into a process that could take several years.”

Local law enforcement reports during the almost 11-hour standoff, the defendant repeatedly opened fire at agents and officers. Lubbock County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Josh Bartlett was shot in the neck and killed; Levelland Police Sgt. Shawn Wilson was shot in the head and rushed to the hospital, and two other officers were also shot and wounded. Sgt. Wilson is recovering and was released from a rehab facility two weeks after the standoff.

The warrant for Soto-Chavira says on July 15, 2021, Levelland officers were dispatched to the 1100 block of 10th Street about an individual, later identified as Omar Soto-Chavira, acting strange by laying down in the street while possessing a large weapon, possibly a rifle.

Officers arrived and tried to speak to Soto-Chavira, who had taken refuge in his home. They were able to talk to him briefly, and officers quickly learned that Soto-Chavira had no intentions of cooperating with law enforcement, according to court documents.

Levelland negotiator attempted to speak to him and could not get Soto-Chavira to respond. Levelland patrol and detectives soon retreated to a safer position based on the actions and words spoken by Soto-Chavira.

The warrant says at this point he opened gunfire on Levelland officers. The officers returned fire but were unable to stop the sudden escalation of violence.

Levelland Police Chief Albert Garcia immediately contacted Lubbock County SWAT requesting their assistance.

While Levelland officers remained in their positions, Soto-Chavira again opened fire on Levelland officers and officers returned fire.

When SWAT arrived, they began relieving the Levelland officers who had been holding their positions while under gunfire.

That is when Soto-Chavira shot Sgt. Detective Shawn Wilson in the head, Lubbock Deputy Josh Bartlett in the neck and a third Lubbock Deputy in the hand.

Concluding an almost 11-hour standoff with law enforcement including ATF and FBI, power to the city block was cut after sundown. Robots from Lubbock County SWAT and the Lubbock Police Department were used to locate Soto-Chavira alone in the bathroom of the home.

According to Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe, chemical agents were deployed, forcing Soto-Chavira out of the bathroom to a portion of the home that had been previously “opened up” by law enforcement.

Soto-Chavira then surrendered to officers around 11:30 p.m. He was transported to Lubbock to be treated for his injuries. He was taken to the Lubbock County Detention Center then transferred to another jail, where he remains. Because he was indicted on federal charges of assaulting a federal officer, he is on a hold for US Marshals and will not be able to bail out of jail.

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