SAN MARCOS, Texas — On Saturday night, Officer Andrew Garza did not hear from his friend, Officer Franco Stewart, and knew something was wrong.
"I had received a text from a friend about a shootout in San Marcos," Garza said. “Whenever there's something in San Marcos, I always text him ... This time he didn’t answer. I sent him a text message and didn’t get a response.”
Stewart had been shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officer Justin Putnam and Officer Justin Mueller also responded and were shot. Putnam died, while Stewart and Mueller were critically injured and brought to Ascension Seton Hays hospital in Kyle. On May 12, The Texas Rangers have positively identified Jose Alfredo Perez DeLaCruz as the person who shot and killed Officer Justin Putnam and wounded Officers Franco Stewart and Justin Mueller.
"We didn’t really have a whole lot of details," Garza said. "We knew he had been shot, that he had been taken to the hospital, but that’s pretty common even with officers that pass away."
Garza works at the McAllen Police Department, where Stewart started his career. They both went to police academy together.
"Since day one, he’s always been a leader," Garza said. "In the academy, he was one of the first leaders in charge of our class – always straightforward, by the book, did everything right, just striving to be overall better at anything he did."
Even as a fellow police officer who knows the goings-on behind the scenes, Garza said this is a scary time.
"We don’t know if this is something that’s going to change his whole life and make it difficult for him to do everyday things or if it’s something that he’s going to come back from and get back to work in a few months when he’s ready," Garza said.
But he does know his friend will be the same leader, no matter how his life may change.
"People who know Stewart know Stewart’s a good guy," Garza said. "I don’t know too many people at all – actually, I can’t even think of anybody that doesn’t like Stewart."
McAllen Police Department's chief also issued a statement on social media on Monday afternoon, saying Stewart is "warmly remembered."
According to the San Marcos Police Department, as of Wednesday, Mueller has been moved out of ICU and his medical team said he is making exceptional progress and starting to walk around. Franco will continue to stay in ICU for now. His team said he is making progress and he has improved drastically over the last few days.
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