Temple's police chief is speaking out about a sharp rise in violent crime that has had citizens on edge for the past few months.

In a lengthy media release issued Thursday night, Chief Floyd Mitchell said the Temple Police Department typically investigates an average of three homicides per year, but has so far investigated seven over the first three months of 2018.

Below is Mitchell's full, unedited address:

I want to take this opportunity to discuss the recent spike in violent crime during the first quarter of 2018. An analysis of the last ten years (2008 to 2017) indicates that the City of Temple experiences, on average, three incidents of murder each year. Some of the motives identified from these investigations include domestic violence, workplace violence, drug involvement, robbery, and feuds between individuals.

During the first quarter of 2018, the City of Temple has conducted five homicide investigations related to the deaths of seven individuals. This is the first year in over a decade that the City has experienced two separate homicide incidents involving more than one victim.

While all five of the 2018 homicide investigations are open and active investigations, I want to provide the community with the following status updates for each of the investigations:

1. Mr. Willie Howard was murdered on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at approximately 12:15 a.m. in the 800 block of N. 4th St. Investigators believe the motive for this incident involved theft of money and narcotics. The Violent Crimes Unit is actively investigating the case, and forensic test results are pending. Detectives believe there are citizens with information that may further the investigation, and ask anyone with information to contact the Temple Police Department as soon as possible.

2. Ms. April Isaac was murdered on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at approximately 1:00 a.m. in the 500 block of E. Young Ave. The case is still actively being investigated by the Violent Crimes Unit. Detectives believe the suspects in this case intended to commit a burglary of a habitation to obtain money and narcotics, and mistakenly targeted the wrong residence. We have conducted extensive interviews with surviving victims and witnesses. Evidence collected from the scene was sent to Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab for analysis, and results are pending. If anyone has firsthand information concerning this case, we ask that they contact the Police Department as soon as possible.

3. The double murder of Ms. Maria Garza and Mr. Pedro Garza occurred on Friday, March 2, 2018, at about 11:00 p.m. in the 1500 block of S. 1st St. There was an altercation between the victim, Pedro Garza, and the suspect in this case, Darrel Gene Holloway III. During the altercation, the suspect ran over Pedro Garza and then struck and killed Ms. Maria Garza, while fleeing the scene. The Violent Crimes Unit collected evidence related to this case, including the vehicle driven by Darrel Holloway. The evidence has been processed and lab results are pending. We ask that any witnesses to the crime who have not come forward to speak with detectives to contact the Police Department as soon as possible. The Bell County District Attorney’s Office has charged
Mr. Holloway with Murder for the death of Maria Garza. Charges for the death of Pedro Garza are pending further investigation and lab results.

4. The double murder of Mr. Cody Cornell and Mr. Robert Pellerin occurred on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, between the hours of 9:45p.m. and 10:15 p.m. at the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store at 1720 SW H.K. Dodgen Loop. Investigators believe the motive for this incident involved robbery and workplace violence by a former employee that had been terminated from employment at the store. The Violent Crimes Unit, Texas Rangers, and Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab processed the crime scene and the suspect’s vehicle upon his arrest. Detectives and Lab Technicians collected information and/or evidence affirmatively linking the suspect, Theodore Dwayne Sims, to the crime. The Bell County District Attorney’s Office has filed Capital Murder charges against Mr. Sims.

5. The murder of Mr. Savion Manual occurred on Monday, March 19, 2018, at approximately 2:15 p.m. in the 2400 block of Saulsbury Road. Investigators believe the motive for this incident involved robbery. The suspects in this case arranged to meet the victim through an online sales application. The victim advertised a gaming system for sale using the online application. When the victim arrived at the agreed meeting location, the suspects contacted the victim and shot him multiple times, killing him. Three suspects, Cash Hilliard, Marques Brown, and a 16-year-old male juvenile have been arrested. We continue to process information and evidence, including investigating additional, unrelated criminal activity by the suspects. If any citizens have firsthand information related to this crime, they are asked to please contact the Violent Crimes Unit of the Police Department as soon as possible.

The Temple Police Department is a safe place for sales transactions between citizens. The Department lobby is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year with continuous video surveillance. We encourage citizens to complete transactions and/or exchanges at the Police Department, and to always consider their personal safety when meeting with strangers.

We believe the first two murders of 2018 were part of a pattern of burglary of habitations
with intent to commit a felony (home invasions) that includes the cities of Belton, Harker
Heights and Killeen. The police departments in all four cities have been working together to identify and arrest a number of subjects involved in these crimes. The following suspects have been arrested and charged in that pattern of crimes related to Temple: Anthony (AJ) Coulter Jr., Costrinia West, and two juveniles. Several other persons of interest have been identified in these cases as we continue to investigate.

Suspects have been identified and arrested, and charges are either pending or have been filed, in the remaining three murder investigations involving five victims. The motives for these murders include a violent domestic dispute, a robbery and workplace violence incident, and an attempted robbery in which the victim met someone to complete a sales transaction he initiated using an online advertising application.

It is extremely troubling to me, the members of our Department, and this community to
see this increase in the number of murders in Temple. As the home invasion crime pattern began to develop, I took a number of steps to provide additional resources to combat this specific issue, beginning with the formation of a Violent Crimes Task Force. More than 15 Temple Police officers were reassigned from their regular duties to focus strictly on the identified violent crime pattern. The Department also marshalled the resources of the FBI, ATF, DPS, Texas Rangers, Bell County District and County Attorneys’ Offices, and Bell County Adult and Juvenile Probation Offices. To date, we have invested more than 3,700 additional man-hours in the identification, surveillance, arrest, interrogation, and prosecution of the individuals involved in these crimes.

Temple’s City Manager and City Council have continued to provide their support to the
Department and its efforts to address these issues by authorizing the financial resources and equipment necessary to attack this crime pattern.

I want our Temple community to know that the men and women of this Department and
the Central Texas law enforcement community as a whole have all been working to address and reduce crime in this area, and will continue to do so.