DALLAS — The first killing was on Halloween.
College student Jaden Urrea, 19, was gunned down as he waited for a ride after a Halloween party in downtown Dallas.
On Nov. 14, Adam Gautreau, 36, was shot and killed at a service road intersection, about 30 minutes before Kenneth Jerome Hamilton, 57, was found mortally wounded in the driver’s seat of his car 9 miles away. Police announced they were looking for a black Chevy Tahoe in both shootings.
Suspected killer Jeremy Rashaud Harris’ alleged string of violence ended on Wednesday in neighboring Collin County, where Blair Carter, 60, was found dead inside his burning Celina home. According to police, Harris, 31, of Red Oak, used to date Carter’s daughter.
Harris was in the Collin County Jail on Tuesday, charged with four counts of murder. Bail was set at $1 million on each murder charge.
“In my opinion, based on what I’ve seen so far, I believe that this is the definition of a serial killer,” said Dallas police Deputy Chief Reuben Ramirez, who heads the department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall said in a virtual news conference Friday that the violence in the city the weekend before was “alarming because it was separate and apart from anything that we’ve seen.”
Along with the killings of Gautreau and Hamilton, there were other random shootings that weekend, the chief said. The incidents crossed jurisdictional boundaries, which prompted teamwork from multiple local, state and federal agencies.
While the investigation into all of the shootings is ongoing, Hall expressed relief that Harris is in custody.
“The knowledge that someone is randomly, with no real reason and reckless disregard for human life, going around murdering individuals is a separate kind of fear,” Hall said.
Shooting sprees ‘extremely unusual’
Ramirez and Assistant Chief Avery Moore detailed the weekend of violence and what led to Harris’ arrest.
Moore touched on the killings of Gautreau and Hamilton, along with an aggravated assault that took place two days later in the city. As in the Nov. 14 killings, the suspect in the Nov. 16 shooting was seen driving a black Tahoe.
When homicide investigators “scrubbed” social media last week, they learned of similar shootings in Denton, Prosper and Frisco.
Denton police officials confirmed that Harris is suspected in a Nov. 17 shooting that took place there.
“A 20-year-old driver and her 20-year-old passenger reported they were driving down the road when a vehicle pulled up beside them and began shooting into their vehicle,” Denton officials said in a statement. “Both females sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and were transported to a local hospital for treatment.”
Moore said the black Tahoe was spotted at each of the shootings in the other cities.
“(Dallas detectives) took it upon themselves to reach out to our partners in those respective cities,” Moore said. “Witnesses were able to come down and give us outstanding information so that we could actually get a search warrant.”
The warrant helped them obtain information that placed Harris at all three locations, Moore said.
Ramirez said it was ultimately the Celina homicide, and Harris’ arrest for that crime, that put him on Dallas investigators’ radar.
“It’s extremely unusual for someone to just go on a shooting spree,” Ramirez said. “Fortunately, that’s not very common. So, when the murder occurred in Celina and they distributed a bulletin, it circulated and caught our detectives’ attention.”
The investigators then learned about the random shootings into vehicles in the other jurisdictions as well.
“Just that MO (mode of operation) of random shootings out of a vehicle, that was enough for us to start inquiring further because we had our three offenses with a person shooting out of a vehicle at random people,” Ramirez said.
Arrest affidavits further detail Dallas detectives’ probe into the shootings.
Urrea, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University, was shot and killed just before 3 a.m. Oct. 31 as he stood at the intersection of South Harwood and Jackson streets in downtown Dallas. According to the Dallas Morning News, the SMU student had just called a rideshare following a Halloween party.
His family told WFAA in Dallas that he had also spoken to them moments before he was killed.
The driver of a white Ford Taurus with chrome rims and tinted windows pulled up beside Urrea.
“The suspect appeared to summon (Urrea) to the vehicle’s passenger side and shoot him,” according to the arrest affidavit in the case.
Urrea died at the scene.
Surveillance footage from multiple downtown locations shows the Taurus speeding away, its headlights off, and running several red lights, the court records state.
Watch footage of the suspect’s car fleeing the area of Urrea’s fatal shooting below.
Investigators learned that the car had been involved in a crash a few hours after Urrea’s shooting. They found the car at a repair shop on Thursday.
A search of the vehicle turned up a single spent shell casing under the passenger seat, the affidavit states.
Detectives also learned from a witness that Harris was driving the Taurus the morning Urrea was killed, according to records. Police officials on Friday said the witness was Harris’ girlfriend, who owns the car.
The woman told police Harris took the car after a fight and was gone for several hours.
Adam Gautreau and Kenneth Hamilton
Gautreau, who was homeless, was panhandling at the intersection of Empire Central Drive and North Stemmons Freeway around 8:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when a black Tahoe with black rims pulled up alongside him. His mother, who lives in New Hampshire, talked to WFAA about her son’s killing.
“He was beckoned back over and when he turned around, they just fully shot him from head to toe, nine times,” Marlowe Gautreau said.
Police officials said Adam Gautreau was found lying on the service road by a passerby. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the arrest affidavit in the Gautreau case, detectives spotted the Tahoe on surveillance footage near the crime scene. Multiple shell casings were also recovered from the scene.
Those casings were matched to the Winchester 9 mm casings found at the scene of Hamilton’s killing about 30 minutes later.
Hamilton, a husband, father and grandfather, was in his vehicle, stopped at a red light at South Beckley Avenue and Clarendon Drive, when he was shot. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died.
Joyce Hamilton told WFAA that her husband was “minding his own business” and driving home.
“Innocent people are being killed for no reason at all,” she told the news station.
Listen to Joyce Hamilton talk about her husband’s death below, courtesy of WFAA.
Surveillance footage at the intersection where Hamilton was shot shows the black Tahoe pull up beside his car and stop. A few moments later, it speeds away.
Two days after Gautreau and Hamilton were slain, a driver was shot in front of Mt. Auburn Elementary School in Dallas, but survived. According to court records, the black Tahoe was spotted on surveillance footage at that scene.
Shell casings were linked to the casings found at the Gautreau and Hamilton crime scenes, as well, an affidavit states.
The bloody string of crimes came to an end following Carter’s killing on Wednesday.
According to the Celina Police Department, firefighters were called shortly after 11 a.m. to 1421 Anvil Court, where the home was engulfed in flames. After the blaze was extinguished, Carter’s remains were found inside.
The Dallas Morning News reported that investigators found witnesses who heard gunshots. Construction workers nearby also provided a description of a man they saw running from the home and across a field.
Schools in Celina and nearby Prosper were locked down as a precaution, the paper reported.
Multiple law enforcement agencies began looking for the suspect, later identified as Harris, and the black Chevy SUV witnesses saw in the area. Harris was ultimately taken into custody in Ellis County, Celina police officials said.
Ramirez said when Dallas detectives learned that Harris was arrested while driving a black Tahoe similar to the one described at their crime scenes, they began investigating him in earnest.
Cellphone data obtained through search warrants placed Harris’ phone at each scene at the time of the crimes, authorities said.
License plate readers that picked up the Tahoe in various locations showed that the SUV had black rims. When he was arrested, however, the vehicle had stock alloy rims.
The affidavit in the Hamilton case states that the black rims were found in Harris’ apartment after his arrest.
“A neighbor immediately next to suspect Harris’ apartment told Detective J. Hunter that he had seen suspect Harris changing the rims on his black Chevy Tahoe,” the affidavit states.
Watch footage of the suspect’s Tahoe at the scene of Hamilton’s fatal shooting below.
A second witness confirmed that Harris had swapped the rims a few days before his arrest on Wednesday.
“The surveillance footage was released of the black suspect SIV to the public after the (Hamilton) offense and it is believed that suspect Jeremy Harris removed the tires and put the stock tires and rims back on the SIV so that it would not be noticed,” the affidavit states.
Celina detectives searched the Tahoe and found a black handgun that had been disassembled and burned, the court records state.
Receipts found in Harris’ apartment showed the purchase of weapons on Nov. 11 and Nov. 16. An empty ammunition box was also found.
Harris’ motive for the shootings is unclear. Dallas authorities said Friday that they had not yet had the opportunity to interview him.
Ramirez said the Celina case appears to be the only crime in which Harris had a connection to the victim.
Mourning the dead
Jeff Chaney, a real estate agent and mayor of Frisco, described Carter as a longtime client who he’s known for 15 years. Carter’s newly-built home in Celina was his “dream home,” Chaney wrote on Facebook.
“He lived his life for his daughter Amber,” Chaney wrote. “Blair was soft spoken and kind. He loved his music and (was) a big Journey fan. He was unassuming and every time he called, he would laugh and asked why the mayor would take his call.
“I made it a point to never miss it.”
Amber Carter described her father as a “quiet but impactful person.” She wrote that she was blessed to have 29 years with him.
“I’m working hard to ensure that he is highly honored and remembered in the ways that he deserved to be,” she wrote.
Hamilton was another man who lived for his loved ones.
“He was a family man,” his wife, Joyce Hamilton, told WFAA. “He didn’t bother anyone. He was killed senselessly.”
Like Blair Carter, SMU student Urrea is remembered for his love of music. The El Paso native is also remembered for his kindness.
“He was the person who would sit next to someone and console them or approach a stranger and make them feel welcome and loved,” his cousin, Sofia Goff, told WFAA.
He was remembered at a prayer vigil on campus, where students, whether they knew Urrea or not, spent time passing out fliers seeking information on his death. Following Harris’ arrest, university officials released a statement.
“We are grateful for the arrest of a suspect in the murder of our student, Jaden Urrea,” Dr. K.C. Mmeje, vice president for student affairs, said in the statement. “While nothing can ease the pain felt by his family and friends, we sincerely hope the successful prosecution and conviction of Jaden’s killer will allow them to find peace. We appreciate the diligent work of investigators in this case.”
Marlowe Gautreau told the news station that her son, who moved to Dallas about four years ago, initially had a home, job and car. Addicted to heroin, he ended up losing it all.
He’d been living on the streets for a couple of years.
“I was braced for bad news because he was living in a terrible place, but I wasn’t braced for this,” she said.
Tiffany Garner of Grapevine wrote that she and her husband loved Gautreau, her grandson’s father, like a son.
“Rest in the sweetest of peace, Adam,” Garner wrote. “You will forever be in our hearts.”
Cox Media Group