SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — For several hours on Wednesday, armed San Marcos police officers were posted outside the doors of day cares across the city.
One of them came to Linda Burt’s door.
“And he showed his badge. And at that point, I was scared,” said Burt, who operates a state-registered childcare facility from her home.
San Marcos Police chief Stan Standridge said Crime Stoppers had received an anonymous tip around 3 a.m. threatening violence at a “daycare in San Marco tomorrow morning.”
He said the threat did not expand on what “tomorrow morning” meant or which state. Out of an abundance of caution, he said authorities identified not only San Marco Florida, but also San Marcos, California, and San Marcos, Texas, as possible threats.
“Our back was then against the clock because day cares would be convening,” Standridge said.
He said one officer was dispatched to more than a dozen facilities, starting with state-registered ones.
“It is not intuitive to know what… every day care exists in any specific city,” Standridge explained. “So, you have to be able to go through any licensing and regulatory commission to determine what are the licensed locations in San Marcos, Texas.”
He said they found out about other locations through word of mouth.
“And that’s why we had some roving officers checking on those additional locations to determine if there were kids gathered there or not,” Standridge said.
He said the department also posted to its Facebook page to keep the public informed.
“Okay, make sure all the children are safe. One space, make sure I’m with them,” Burt remembered thinking. “In my head, I was thinking, ‘If you have issues at this door, I’m going to the back door, because we already have a wagon available by the gate. Well, if he comes from the back door, I have a side door.”
Burt said she was calling parents, and parents were calling her.
“It was very frightening for a while,” she said.
Standridge said his team was working with agencies in the other two states, as well as the FBI. San Marcos Police Department’s computer forensic detective ended up cracking the case and tracking the suspect down in Florida.
He said the department had just made the computer forensic detective a full-time role last year and spent tens of thousands of dollars on training and equipment.
“In speaking to the FBI, they were hugely appreciative of what the San Marcos Police Department was able to provide them,” he said.
Standridge said the suspect was taken into custody around 1:30 p.m. in Jacksonville, Florida.
He said they are not releasing the suspect’s name at this time, but SMPD will continue to be part of the investigation.
He said the suspect could face charges in either or all of the states of California, Florida, and Texas, and could even face a federal charge.
“You’re still thinking… ‘Wow, this really happened in my community,'” Burt said.
But she was grateful for the full and prompt response from her police department.
“They actually came, and they were patrolling even for us, home-based, and that felt really soothing. Because sometimes we’re left out,” she said.