Crime

Murder of east Austin woman linked to series of robberies

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- A 19-year-old who police say went on a robbery spree on Christmas night has been linked to the deadly shooting of 30-year-old Ebony Sheppard. 

Austin police along with the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force arrested Xavier Lewis on Thursday, Dec. 28, two days after Sheppard was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Sixty 600 Apartments at 6600 Ed Bluestein Blvd. around 11:44 p.m.

According to an arrest affidavit, Lewis was involved in two aggravated robberies on Dec. 25. All of the robberies happened within a short distance away from the Sixty 600 Apartments.

The first robbery happened at Dottie Jordan Park around 9:45 p.m. Four friends were hanging out around a bonfire at the park when a suspect approached them and pointed a small, black semi-automatic pistol at them. The victims told police he demanded they empty their pockets, which they did.

The suspect then told the four victims they had 5 seconds to "run away or he would start shooting," according to court documents. As the victims started to run away, the suspect began to yell out his count down. "However, the suspect then fired multiple shots" as they ran and struck two of the victims. The victims kept running through the creek bed to get away from the shooter.

The four friends were able to get to Dubuque Lane where they were able to get help and call 911. Both of the men who suffered gunshot wounds were treated and released.

Less than 45 minutes after the park incident and less than 1 mile away, a woman called 911 to report she was carjacked when she returned to her home in the 6600 block of Highpoint Drive. The woman described the suspect as a young, black man between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. The victim's description of the suspect's weapon was similar to the first robbery. Fearing for her life, the victim said she handed over her phone and her Cadillac Escalade.

APD Lt. Jason Staniszewski said in a press conference Friday that while Lewis was fleeing the scene in the Escalade, he ran over an individual who is now in serious condition.

Twenty-four hours later, police say Lewis saw Sheppard in the parking lot of the Sixty 600 Apartments. Shepphard was in the process of warming up her car to pick up her mother and 4-year-old son. Her family heard one gunshot and all ran to the parking lot where they found her lying on her back near her car, according to an arrest affidavit.

When police interviewed Lewis, he said he was "hungry and high on drugs" when he saw Sheppard and figured he could rob her for  "a couple of bucks," according to the affidavit. When he pointed the gun at her and told her to give him the purse, he said she started to scream and cry. That's when the suspect shot her, continued in the affidavit. Lewis told police he didn't take anything from her and ran away.

Court documents show police were able to determine Lewis' proximity to the robberies because he had on a GPS monitoring device that was required for a pending case. However, that GPS tracking device wasn't what led police to Lewis.

In an unusual sequence of events, a family disturbance at a unit at the Sixty 600 Apartments - the same complex where Sheppard was killed the night before - at 7:49 a.m. on Dec. 27 is how police found the gun they believe was used in the robberies. According to the arrest affidavit, the gun was found in a shoebox. The person who lived in the apartment told detectives her friend put the gun in her apartment earlier that day. Detectives believe the friend hid the firearm in the apartment to "prevent Xavier from being caught with that weapon."

Lewis is currently in the Travis County Jail on five counts of aggravated robbery and one count of capital murder.

In a statement to the media, Sheppard's family said her death was a "tragic and senseless act of violence." The family has started a GoFundMe account to help with the cost of her burial as well as provide care for her 4-year-old son Ian.

"We are so happy that there's a sort of closure, not complete, but now we know who did it," said Sheppard's aunt, Andrea Brown, who went on to say she feels her niece and her family was failed by the criminal justice system.

"This fellow is on a monitor -- who in the world is monitoring him?" she asked, referring to the ankle monitor Lewis was wearing. "We're paying parole, probation, supervisory people, we're paying their salaries. There's got to be some changes. I mean, I feel like I paid to have my niece killed, and that's that's -- that's not a good feeling."

A prayer vigil will be held at Vision of Hope AME Church at 4711 Delores Ave. on Saturday, Dec. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in memory of Sheppard. Her funeral is scheduled for Jan. 6.


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