Texas District Judge Julie Kocurek, the presiding felony judge for Travis County, was shot in the driveway of her West Austin home late Friday, authorities said. Police said the injury is not considered life-threatening.
Kocurek was taken to University Medical Center-Brackenridge, where she was joined by several other Travis County judges and her court staff. Her condition initially was considered critical, but shortly after midnight officials said her condition had been upgraded to stable.
Police said the shooting was reported at 10:16 p.m. Kocurek had just returned home and was accompanied by others when she was shot, police Cmdr. Mark Spangler said. No one else with the judge was shot.
A neighbor of Kocurek’s told the American-Statesman that she “just heard four pops.”
Law enforcement officials swarmed the area around Kocurek’s home near Lake Austin looking for the assailant. The search includes dozens of Austin police officers who are searching by both air and ground. Spangler said darkness obviously presented a challenge in the search.
The shooting occurred in Austin’s Tarrytown neighborhood on Scenic Drive, a street of $1 million and $2 million homes that runs along Lake Austin. Police set up crime-scene tape around a white sport-utility vehicle in front of Kocurek’s home, which has a security gate that cuts across the driveway.
Kocurek, a former prosecutor, has served as the presiding judge of the 390th District Court since being appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush in January 1999. She went on to become the only Republican elected to a state district judgeship in Travis County. In 2006, she switched political parties and joined the Democrats. “My job in the courtroom is not a political job, ” she said at the time. “This is really about me just being honest with myself.”
Until last year, Kocurek served as the administrative presiding judge of all criminal courts in the county, a position she held since 2011, and in that time, she helped spur an overhaul of the defense system used to appoint lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.
Most recently, she was overseeing the case of Mark Norwood, who was convicted in the infamous 1986 killing of Christine Morton and is now facing charges in the 1988 death of Debra Baker. She also was presiding over the case of Dara Llorens, who was arrested in Mexico for the 2002 kidnapping of her daughter, Sabrina Allen.
District Judge David Wahlberg said he received word of the shooting after midnight.
“It’s the most shocking news I have ever received,” he said. “Judge Kocurek is a wonderful woman. It’s unfathomable to think that anyone would be angry with her. We are all praying for her.”