Suspect in deadly attacks in Bexar County, Austin was previously bonded out of jail by Texas Organizing Project

Shane James had three pending cases in Bexar County for misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury-family

SAN ANTONIO – A man charged with capital murder following a series of attacks that left six people dead in Bexar County and Austin on Tuesday was bonded out of the Bexar County Jail by a Texas organization nearly two years ago.

Bexar County booking records obtained by KSAT show Shane James, 34, was bonded out in early 2022 by Laquita Garcia, who is statewide policy coordinator for the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), an area group that advocates for bail reform.

The group has been criticized in the past for bailing out defendants who cannot otherwise afford bond.

In a statement Wednesday evening, a TOP spokesman said the organization was saddened and troubled by the murders and would conduct a comprehensive review of its bail program moving forward.

Sources told KSAT that James had three pending cases in Bexar County for misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury-family.

A mugshot of Shane James from the Bexar County Jail from Jan. 6, 2022. (Bexar County Jail) (Bexar County Jail)

Warrants for James’ re-arrest were issued in early March 2022, after the defendant cut off his ankle monitor, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar confirmed during a Wednesday afternoon press briefing. Salazar confirmed deputies were called to the home on Port Royal in August and spoke with James, who was described as being nude in a bedroom, but left the residence without taking him into custody on the misdemeanor warrants to avoid a potential violent confrontation.

James was arrested late Tuesday in Austin after the dayslong attacks. Police in Austin said he is the sole suspect for four deaths that occurred there.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating his connection with the deaths of a man and a woman at a home in northeast Bexar County.

During the attacks, which spanned several hours on Tuesday, an Austin police officer and an Austin ISD police officer were shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. A male cyclist was also shot in Austin, but survived.

The relationships between the suspect and victims have not been released, nor the motive. Read the latest on the case here.

Garcia did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment Wednesday.

A TOP spokesman Wednesday released the following statement confirming the group’s bail program would go through a review.

“Texas Organizing Project (TOP) is profoundly saddened and deeply troubled by the recent tragic events involving Shane James. We condemn his most recent egregious acts, full stop. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the victims and their families during this incredibly difficult time. Through our justice program, we bailed out James in coordination with the Bexar County’s public defender’s office, nearly two years ago in February 2022 on misdemeanor charges where his bond fees totaled $300. The events that have unfolded are devastating, and we recognize the pain and suffering this incident has caused. We take our responsibilities seriously and acknowledge that we must address both the immediate impact of this tragedy and the broader implications for our bail program. TOP was founded with a commitment to transforming Texas into a state that works for everyone. A piece of our work is reforming the criminal justice system, advocating for fairness, and providing support to those who have often been marginalized and underserved. We firmly believe in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and our mission is to ensure that individuals have the opportunity to address their legal challenges while awaiting trial in a just and equitable manner. We want to make clear that TOP has a thorough and rigorous screening process in place to assess individuals who are eligible for our bail program, with a focus on assisting with misdemeanor offenses. James was deemed eligible based on our criteria at the time. However, TOP has had no interaction with James since March 2022. We acknowledge that our assessments cannot anticipate the future actions of individuals. We are committed to conducting a comprehensive internal review of our program and processes. We understand that some may try to use this tragedy to criticize bail programs, even for misdemeanors. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission, advocating for the rights and representation of all Texans. Additionally, we are acutely aware of the urgent need to address gun violence as an endemic issue in Texas and across the United States. We can’t ignore the larger context in which incidents like these occur. Our commitment to transforming our state and nation’s criminal justice system includes advocating for sensible gun control measures and community safety initiatives that can help prevent tragedies,” wrote Daniel Barrera, communications coordinator for TOP.

TOP in past years had bonded out as many as 25-30 Bexar County Jail inmates per month on bonds totaling $5,000 or less, a law enforcement source said. That number had dwindled to around two a month, before increasing in recent weeks to around five defendants a week.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales attempted to downplay TOP’s support of him in past campaigns, claiming the organization has provided his campaign services but not monetary donations.

“They provided a service that they had to put a dollar amount on,” said Gonzales, referring to canvassing/block walking services provided by TOP that appeared on past campaign finance reports for him.

Salazar, who at first did not answer a question from KSAT about support he has received from TOP, circled back around to it later in the press conference.

“There’s nothing for me to refund. They didn’t do anything wrong in helping this gentleman exercise his right to bond. I don’t regret anybody supporting me,” said Salazar.

TOP canvassed on behalf of Salazar and served as a $1,500 event sponsor, past campaign finance reports for the sheriff show.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.