WESTWOOD SHOOTING

Amy Almanza, (rear, center) husband Steve Hernandez (right) with children. Almanza said she believes a prowler at her home Tuesday night got shot at a home a block away during an alleged burglary attempt. 

A Palestine man is in critical condition after being shot during an alleged robbery attempt in the Westwood area of Palestine.

Oscar Oliver, 39, received two gunshot wounds, one to the abdomen, and one to the neck, after allegedly breaking into a home in the 100 block of Clearview Drive.

Because of Governor Abbot’s emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the charges against Oliver, burglary of a habitation, and unlawful use of a vehicle, have been upgraded to first and second degree felonies, respectively,

The homeowner, who police have not yet identified, but neighbors refer to as “Kevin,” was awoken shortly before 1 a.m. by the sounds of someone attempting to break into his home, according to the police report.

While investigating the noise, the homeowner found Oliver standing inside his front door. The homeowner armed himself with a 9 mm handgun, followed Oliver outside, and found him allegedly attempting to steal his car.

The homeowner fired multiple shots, hitting Oliver twice.

Palestine police officers, who were already in the area investigating a prowler call from the nearby Parkcrest, arrived on scene quickly. Oliver was arrested, and emergency medical services were called.

Oliver was life-flighted to a Tyler area hospital, where authorities say he remains in critical condition.

A doorbell camera installed at the home captured Oliver breaking a window to gain entry the home.

Amy Almanza, the Parkcrest resident who earlier had reported the prowler, said she believes it was also Oliver.

Almanza, 35, called police after her two children and their four friends said they heard someone making noise outside their window.

Almanza’s husband Steve Hernandez found a hat, possibly belonging to the suspect, and several footprints. Almanza said police attributed the disturbance to neighborhood kids, and instructed the family to keep their doors locked, and to remain alert.

“I’m not faulting the police,” Almanza told the Herald-Press Wednesday.  “They thought it was kids, and that they’d done their job.  Five minutes after they left, though, we heard three gunshots from down the street.”

Detectives took Almanza’s statement Wednesday morning, took the hat she found as evidence, and photographed the area.

Having only moved into the home a few months ago, Almanza said she is unsettled by the situation.

“This used to be a safe space,” she said.  “This is exactly why we didn’t move to the city.  I guess there’s craziness everywhere, though.”

Almanza urges city residents to keep their eyes open, and stay alert; she’s not sure if Oliver was acting alone.

“There was a red pickup truck, slowly circling the area when this was going on,” she said.  “Some of my neighbors told me they’ve seen it before, and were also suspicious.”

Palestine Police Department interim Chief Mark Harcrow told the Herald-Press detectives are investigating all possible links to the attempted burglary.  The homeowner, he said, will most likely not be charged with the shooting.

“The homeowner acted well within his rights to protect his family and his home,” Harcrow said.  “We will recommend charges not be filed for the shooting.  Ultimately, that is for the grand jury to decide.”

Patrols have been increased in the Westwood area in recent months due to an increase in criminal activity, Harcrow said. 

Anyone with any information related to this case, or the suspect, is urged to contact the PPD Criminal Investigations Division at 903-731-8484.

All suspects are to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

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