SAGINAW, Texas (AP) — A teenager suspected of suffocating his 6-year-old neighbor with plastic bags, wrapping her body in a tarp and dumping it about a mile from her home was shot Tuesday in an exchange of gunfire with officers trying to serve arrest and search warrants.
A police detective who was seriously wounded was expected to recover. He was part of a major crimes task force that went to 17-year-old Tyler Holder’s home in the Fort Worth suburb of Saginaw to serve the warrants about 9 a.m. Tuesday. Holder was hospitalized, but authorities have not released his condition.
According to a capital murder arrest warrant affidavit, authorities suspect Holder suffocated Alanna Gallagher, who was found with plastic bags taped around her neck. Holder’s DNA matched evidence found on the girl’s body and on a belt wrapped around the tarp, according to the affidavit, which says the girl was sexually assaulted.
The revelations come about three weeks after two teenagers found Alanna’s naked body, which was stuffed in a large trash bag, wrapped in a tarp and dumped on a street.
Police also are trying to determine who set fire to a makeshift memorial for Alanna and torched a car owned by the girl’s family that was parked in their driveway. The damage was discovered early Friday.
Holder lives two doors down from the house where Alanna lived with her family in a middle-class neighborhood of neat, one-story houses. Alanna had been playing outside the afternoon she went missing, and a neighbor told authorities that the girl was last seen by Holder’s flower beds, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also says Holder told neighbors that the child found dead July 1 was Alanna before authorities had revealed the victim’s identity. Alanna had been missing for about five hours when the body was discovered.
Holder told police that on the day the girl went missing, he had slept until the afternoon, watched television and then looked for a job, but his car had not moved. A neighbor reported having seen a tarp in Holder’s backyard a few months before the girl’s death, but police did not find it when they were questioning him, according to the document.
When the major crimes task force, which includes the FBI and several police departments, knocked on Holder’s door Tuesday, officers were confronted by an armed suspect who fired on them, said FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont. One of the officers returned fire, striking the suspect, she said.
Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman with Fort Worth’s MedStar Emergency Medical Services, indicated the teen was shot in the head.
An Arlington police detective, Charles Lodatto, was shot in the groin and the bullet severed his femoral artery, said Dr. William Witham of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. He said officers and emergency personnel saved Lodatto’s life by stopping the bleeding at the scene. He said Lodatto, who was Arlington’s 2012 detective of the year, needs more surgeries but is expected to recover.
Kimberly Holder, who lives at the home with her son but was not there Tuesday morning, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that she did not know his condition and referred questions to her attorneys.
One of the attorneys, Lance T. Evans, said in an email to the newspaper that Kimberly Holder was in shock and worried about her son’s condition. He declined further comment.
Yolanda Sierra, who lives in the same neighborhood as the Holders, said Tyler Holder was wearing a T-shirt that read “Wanted” at a memorial service for Alanna.
“It’s inappropriate because … she was murdered,” Sierra said.
Neighbors, who described Holder as a nuisance, said he was often seen walking around during the day and night.
Lisa Arnold said that when Holder was in the fifth grade, he asked her children if they had ever dropped acid. A teacher had already said the young Holder was “bad news,” and when Arnold told him to stay away from her children, he walked in front of their house carrying a metal pipe, she said. Arnold said her son, now 17, and her twins, now 15, have tried to stay away from Holder through the years.
Richard Spencer, 15, said Holder seemed odd and suspicious when he met him, so Spencer decided to avoid him.
“He put off a weird attitude, a weird vibe,” Spencer said. “It was the way he talked, his tone of voice.”
All over the neighborhood, purple ribbons and bows — placed in memory of the girl whose favorite color was purple — remain on mailboxes, trees, stop signs and light poles.
Streets near the suspect’s home were blocked Tuesday by yellow police tape and patrol vehicles. The tape was extended to light poles where purple ribbons had been tied shortly after the girl’s body was found.
“It’s been really heart-breaking for the neighborhood,” Arnold said.