AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police arrested a man Friday who they say took a gun from the scene of a murder-suicide in east Austin, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police responded Friday morning, around 5:30, to a call of shots fired at a Valero gas station on East Riverside Drive near Montopolis Drive. Florencio Felix Barron Alvarez, 43, was found dead on the ground in front of a grey Mazda, and the mother of his children Veneranda Martinez Gutierrez, 36, was found dead inside the car. However, no firearm was found at the scene when the initial APD officers arrived.
Police say that Barron was Martinez Gutierrez’s common-law husband.
A witness who called 9-1-1 told police he saw a man shoot into the Mazda, and then saw the same man turn the weapon on himself. The witness also told police after Barron fell to the ground, two men appeared to run up to the body. The witness did not know what these people were doing.
While at the scene, an APD officer was approached by a witness who said he heard a rumor that someone took Barron’s gun from the scene. No firearm was found, but police say security footage from the gas station showed a man approach the scene before leaving on foot. Detectives gave officers who patrol the area a photo of the man caught on camera in hopes of locating the gun.
At 5:15 p.m. that same day, officers were sent to JD Market on East Riverside Drive for a call of someone trespassing. Police found 47-year-old Christopher Douglas Kempf at the scene. The officers detained Kempf because he matched the description of the suspect who allegedly took the gun from the scene of the murder-suicide.
When asked if he had any weapons on him, Kempf told officers, “I have a gun that that guy shot himself with.” Officers found the gun in Kempf’s front left pants pocket. According to the affidavit, dried blood was found on the gun.
In an interview with a detective, Kempf said he was at the Valero earlier that day when he saw a car pull up and he heard gunshots soon after. According to the affidavit, Kempf said he saw a man walking around the car, putting the gun to his head, then falling over.
Kempf said he approached the scene and found the gun next to Barron. He said he pocketed the weapon and left the scene. When asked why he took it, Kempf told police he knew it was stupid, but he was homeless and “he wasn’t going to lie, he would have sold it.”
Kempf was arrested and faces a charge of tampering with physical evidence and a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. The affidavit said criminal history check of Kempf showed that he was also a convicted felon, his listed prior convictions were in 2017 for possession of a controlled substance less than one gram.
As of Sunday evening, Kempf was being held in the Travis County jail on the two charges. His bond is set at $10,000. County records say he was booked into jail on December 6 after 8 p.m.
Those who knew Martinez-Gutierrez told KXAN in our previous reporting that she was a single mom who regularly sold tamales at a gas station in the area. Police say that Martinez and Barron had three children together who were in the car at the time of the shooting and watched the shooting happen.
“She tried telling him, ‘Papi, don’t do this,’ but he wouldn’t listen,” Itzel Garcia, a family friend of Martinez’s told KXAN last week. “They tried defending their mom, and it got to the point where she just collapsed on her daughter’s lap.”
Garcia said that Barron was stalking and cyber harassing Martinez and that family and friends had tried to alert authorities that Martinez could be in danger.
Family friends have set up a GoFundMe to help support her three children and any funeral expenses. That link can be found here.
Members of the Riverside-area community gathered at the gas station where the incident happened to raise money for Martinez’s funeral expenses and to raise awareness about domestic violence.
“We know that her story, unfortunately, is not an anomaly in any way,” said one Riverside community member at the meeting. She added that Austin’s affordability crisis may also accelerate difficulties for victims who are trying to leave dangerous situations.
At the vigil Sunday, people who knew Martinez and people who were saddened to hear what happened to her joined together to mourn. The group lit candles and spoke with drivers passing by about how they could help out Martinez’s family.
One person in attendance was Kevin Barnfield, who does ministry work in the area. Barnfield said he had purchased tamales from Martinez at that same parking lot before and always enjoyed interacting with her.
“[Martinez]was a person that you seen every day who had a joy for doing what they did,” Barnfield said. “And to lose a person like that it’s just a sad occasion for anybody, it should move anybody to tears.”
“I say we should all just lift each other up and give each other love, and maybe that would be the best way to remember Veneranda,” Barnfield said.
Detectives are asking anyone with video or information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or use the new Crime Stoppers App or email APD Homicide at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may remain anonymous. You can also submit tips by downloading APD’s mobile app, Austin PD, free on iPhone and Android.
If you are experiencing domestic violence and need help, you can call the SAFE Alliance at (512) 267-7233 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.