ALVARADO — Ellis County and District Attorney's Office investigators arrested William Lane Cox on an after indictment warrant Aug. 29 in Alvarado. An Ellis County Grand Jury indicted Cox Aug. 24 on the charge of deadly conduct by discharging a firearm.
“My office conducted an investigation into Mr. Cox after he was released from the Ellis County Jail. The results and finding of that investigation were presented to the Ellis County Grand Jury last week, and the grand jury returned an indictment against him for deadly conduct,” Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson said. “A warrant was then issued for his arrest. He was arrested yesterday in Johnson County. At this point a court date will be determined by the court and his case will proceed like any other case in the system. We just wanted this case to be subject to the same screening and review process of any other case, and I think that now has finally occurred.”
According to the indictment, Cox allegedly discharged a firearm at or in the direction of the Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church and was reckless when he disregard the potential for the building to be occupied.
According to a previous WDL article, at approximately 6:55 a.m. on July 13, Ovilla Police and Ellis County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located at 7810 Shiloh Road off of FM 664. Officers were responding to a call of “gunshots fired,” according to an Ellis County Sheriff’s Department arrest affidavit.
Cox was arrested on scene and booked into the Wayne McCollum Detention Center and charged with deadly conduct – discharge of a firearm, the affidavit states.
According to Sec. 22.05 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with a third-degree felony if found to “knowingly discharge a firearm at or in the direction of (2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building or vehicle is occupied.” The penal code also states that the third-degree felony carries a confinement of up to 10 years, but no less than two years, in TDCJ and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
At the time of the offense, Cox was employed as a deputy with the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office. Somervell County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Peterson said Cox was no longer employed with the department and terminated on July 13. Cox started working with the agency on Sept. 13, 2011.
Ellis County Investigator Eric Thompson said Vernon Sansom, the church’s pastor, chose to drop all charges on July 14.
“This incident troubles me greatly because it certainly looks like someone in the law enforcement community was afforded favoritism that others might not be afforded,” Wilson said in a previous article. “Well, you have a law enforcement officer is alleged to have committed a violent crime who is arrested by law enforcement officers and investigated by law enforcement agency. And you have a person, the complaint in the matter, who is a law enforcement chaplain and is the preacher at the church. So it is very, very difficult for me to believe that this man, Mr. Cox, was not afforded some special consideration.”
Wilson said this is an allegation of violent behavior, and there is no particular standing for anyone required to pursue the felony charge of deadly conduct.
According to an affidavit submitted for probable cause determination, Deputy Christopher Hilliard arrived at the church where he found Ovilla police officers already on scene.
“They had responded to gun shots fired called in by local residents and had located this suspicious vehicle in the parking lot with the listed suspect, William Cox standing near it wearing only sneakers and shorts,” Hilliard stated. “William appeared intoxicated and was crying and reported he was upset and responsible for the gun shots.
“He gave consent to search his vehicle, and a .38 [caliber] revolver was located along with his identification. A Glock handgun, as well as his truck keys, were laying on the grass near him. Numerous spent casing from both weapons were found in the parking lot as well as the church.”
Hillard said Sansom, was called and arrived to allow police officer’s access into the building to make sure no one was injured inside.
“No one was inside the church although several bullets were located that had penetrated the worship area and lay on the ground from the rear of the worship area to the front,” Hilliard stated. “The door on the side of the worship area had bullet damage on the doorknob and several rounds fired through the door and [laid] inside the door on the ground. A piece of the door locking mechanism (a screw) had been propelled into the piano and stuck in the keyboard cover.”
Hillard stated that Cox was explained his Miranda rights and consented to speak with the investigator. Cox confessed that he had become very intoxicated and was unhappy about the current events in the news and then used poor judgment while discharging his guns.
In his report, Thompson also detailed his photographic documentation of the scene.
“As I went into the auditorium door located on the east side of the church, I noticed three bullet holes in the east side wall on the inside,” Thompson said. “I recovered one bullet on the auditorium floor between the wall and church pew. As I continued searching the church auditorium, I noticed a double door on the south side of the church that leads outside.
“The door knob on the door was damaged and appeared to have been shot. I began searching outside for bullet holes on the south side [of the] building. I noticed bullet holes on the south building on [the] east wall. One above the window and one just below [the] roofline on the south corner wall.”
Thompson reported that he recovered a loaded .38 caliber Special +P, a Glock 22 G4 and 28 spent casings around Cox’s white 2009 Dodge 2500 pickup truck. The Glock 22 G4, an SCSD issued handgun, was returned to Somervell County Chief Deputy Brian Peterson.
Thompson also reported that he received a call from Sanson on July 14 stating he did not want to file charges on Cox. Thompson advised Sanson that he would have to come to the station and complete an affidavit on non-prosecution.
The affidavit shows that Sanson completed and signed the form.
Sanson serves as a chaplain for the Midlothian Police Department and is a member of The Blue Knights – a Waxahachie chapter of the national law enforcement motorcycle club. Sanson stated in a previous article that the church thought like it needed to give Cox a second chance by dropping the charges and that forgiveness is one of the foundations of his congregation.
"Charges were pressed, and he was even arraigned, but in the interim time I did some research on the fella," Sanson said. “I would have done it whether he was a police officer or not. Just wanted to know why and what was going on.
“What we found out is that he had no history of any kind of problems. This was not a continuing problem. The leadership of the church, not me, but the leadership of the church decided that he really has taken enough.
“He lost his career. He will never be back on the road as a law enforcement person,” Sanson continued. “They decided that in the interest of everybody to show some forgiveness. Give him a second chance so this one stupid thing that didn’t mess up the rest of his life. With a conviction on his record, that messes up things even worse.”
According to the after indictment warrant, 40th Judicial District Court Judge Bob Carroll approved a bond amount of $30,000. Cox was booked into the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Jail at 5:30 p.m. on Monday and was released at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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