Investigator: Judge shot outside Texas home was murder attempt

State District Judge Julie Kocurek appears to have been seriously injured by shrapnel and broken glass — rather than a direct hit from a bullet — during what officials described with more certainty Sunday as an assassination attempt.

That information, from law enforcement officials involved in the investigation, came as court staffers and police continued reviewing hundreds of felony cases in Kocurek’s court for anyone who might have wanted to harm her.

Sources told the American-Statesman that Kocurek had been the victim of several threats in the past couple of years that were reported to police at the time. Investigators are now trying to determine whether the suspects from those threats are incarcerated or possibly in the Austin area.

>> Read more trending stories

Law enforcement sources said Sunday that they still think the shooting Friday night probably was tied to Kocurek’s work as a judge, even though such attacks on judges are fairly infrequent. The attacker apparently made no demands for money or property during the brief encounter, leading investigators to think robbery was not the motive.

Police also spent much of Sunday trying to determine whether other homes in the West Austin neighborhood might have security video and if cellphone tower information could reveal who was in the area at the time of the shooting.

Austin police Cmdr. Mark Spangler, who is supervising the investigation, said in an e-mail Sunday that he doesn’t have specific details on Kocurek’s wounds and that such information should come from medical officials caring for her at University Medical Center Brackenridge.

However, he added, “Her injuries were the result of a firearm being deployed in an attempt to murder her.”

Hospital officials said Sunday that they could release no information on Kocurek’s condition.

Kocurek, whose court handles felony cases such as murder, sexual assault and major drug crimes, was injured Friday night when a shooter fired into Kocurek’s car at the driveway of her home, officials said.

Earlier that night, Kocurek had attended a football game between Austin High School and Anderson High School, law enforcement sources confirmed to the American-Statesman. When she returned home, a bag of trash or a garbage can had been placed in front of the security gate into her driveway, requiring the driver of her car to stop the vehicle to remove it.

It was at that time, sources said, that Kocurek was shot. On Sunday, glass remained in a small pile in her 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.

From 2011 to 2014, Kocurek served as the administrative presiding judge of all criminal courts in the county. In that time, she helped spur an overhaul of the defense system used to appoint lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.

It was unclear Sunday whether law enforcement officials were providing additional security for the county’s other felony judges. Neither Austin police nor Travis County sheriff’s officials would comment on security measures.

Such attacks on judges are rare, although they are less frequently monitored at the local and state level.

Federal officials track the number of threats and assassinations or attempted killings of U.S. district judges.

In 2014, U.S. marshals reported 768 threats against the nation’s 2,000 federal judges. Over the past few decades, about 10 federal judges have been assassinated.

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

KVUE News contributed to this report.