Stand-Off Ends In Death — (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)

December 24, 1996

Author: MARY LEE GRANT Caller-Times

STANDOFF ENDS IN GUNMAN’S DEATH – His girlfriend says argument led to ordeal * Girlfriend says Preston wanted revenge on police, who responded to an argument at a local bar months ago. Bar owners say Preston burned Sharkey’s, seeking revenge. The deputy constable remains hospitalized in Corpus Christi.

PORT ARANSAS – The 18-hour standoff that left Harrison Preston III dead on Monday was the result of an argument with his girlfriend and a confrontation with police months ago at a bar, the girlfriend said Monday.

“We were at Sharkey’s, and we got in a fight,” Tamara Krausman recalled. “He threw me over his shoulder. It wasn’t like it was a big deal. We fought that way all the time.   “But he got arrested and never forgave the cops,” Krausman said. “He really hated cops, especially Port Aransas cops.”

Sunday night, Preston’s apparent thirst for revenge led him to Charlie’s Pasture, an open field on the west side of town, where police say the gunman set fire to a car and shot a deputy constable and a fishermen camped in the area before holding off officers from a dozen agencies until Monday afternoon.   Preston, 36, a former Port Aransas resident, died about 3 p.m. after being shot by a member of a Department of Public Safety SWAT team.

Deputy Constable Jerry W. Nash was shot with a high-powered rifle in a wrist and his side after responding to the car fire. Late Monday, Nash, 44, was in intensive care at Spohn Memorial Hospital, officials said. The fisherman, who was not identified, was in fair condition and “good spirits” at Columbia North Bay Hospital in Aransas Pass, Precinct 7 Constable Robert Sherwood said.

Months after the incident in the bar, Preston returned to Sharkey’s on Sunday night at about 7:20 p.m., said bar employee Gordon Scott and owner Jody McCormick. He poured gasoline on the floor and set the nightclub on fire. The bar was closed at the time.   The club was heavily damaged by fire and smoke, and even the cash register melted, McCormick said.

“The cops told us he called them and said, ‘I’m going to set fire to Sharkey’s, so bring your gun.’ ” Scott said. “I think he wanted revenge on us because he got in trouble here, and he wanted revenge on the cops.”   Scott said Preston was a frequent customer and sometimes a pleasant one.  “He could be nice, and he could be belligerent,” Scott said. “You just never knew with him.”

McCormick said he believes that, after setting fire to Sharkey’s, Preston drove to Charlie’s Pasture, where he set fire to the car. McCormick believes Preston set fire to the car to lure police to an isolated area where he could confront them.

Krausman, a San Antonio resident who had dated Preston for eight months, said Monday that she might have been able to talk Preston out of Charlie’s Pasture, but she believes he had no intention of walking out alive after Nash was shot.

“He didn’t want to come out alive,” said Krausman, who wandered the area near the police command post Monday afternoon. “He was on 10 years’ probation – I’m not sure for what. And he had messed that up somehow. Then he shot a cop and shot at (a DPS) helicopter.

“After that, there was no way he wanted to come out alive,” she said. “The police told me he shot himself. They said they shot him in the chest and then he shot himself in the throat.”   Still, she was angry that police never gave her a chance to talk to him.   “I think if they had let me talk to him, he might have had a chance,” she said.

Friends described Preston as a man with wealth, good looks and a volatile personality. They said he had great charm and a way with women. But he was also a heavy drinker, they said, and was fascinated by guns, which he collected.   Acquaintances also said he was experiencing psychological difficulties.

He was on anti-depressants ,” Scott said. “He quit taking them a few weeks ago. I think that may be partly what caused this.”    Walter Hock, manager of Seal’s Barbecue and a friend of Preston’s, said Preston was a member of a wealthy New Braunfels family and owned his own construction company, Harrison Preston Construction in New Braunfels.

Hock said Preston left Port Aransas in August 1995 after living here two years to move to New Braunfels.    “I just can’t believe he did this,” Hock said. “If I could have only talked to him, I know I could have talked him out of it. But I think he was very self-destructive. In a way, something like this was bound to happen. He was always talking about his guns. I don’t think he cared anymore. And he thought he was Superman.”

Hock also recalled a fun-loving Preston from better times.   “He loved to fish, drink rum and flirt,” Hock recalled.”He really had everything. He was tall and blond and very good-looking.   “We used to run together, and he really liked to flirt with the girls. We would shoot pool and fish together.”

Hock said he was sad about his friend’s death but angry that Preston shot Nash, another friend, and burned Sharkey’s.   “Sharkey’s is my bar – they’re my people,” Hock said. “Where am I going to go on New Year’s? And he shot a cop. You just don’t do that. I can’t believe he hurt my friends.   “But I hate to see him dead.”

Hock called Nash caring, responsible and good at his job.  “He is just one of the nicest guys you could ever know,” Hock said. “He would always stop me and say, ‘Walter, you’d better be good.’ He really looked out for us locals. If we partied too hard, he would tell us.”

Louie Kusey, a contractor, said of Nash, “He is one of the good cops, the kind of guy you can trust.”  Officials from the Constable’s Office said Nash has worked in Port Aransas about three years. He is an Alice native who lives in Corpus Christi.   “He is a big, lovable Teddy Bear,” said Carol McElheney, a waitress at Sharkey’s Bar. “He’s wonderful. He’s just an all-round good guy.”

Graphic box: Standoff Chronology

Sunday 8:45 p.m. – Three fishermen camping in Charlie’s Pasture near the ferry landing hear an explosion.

9 p.m. – Nueces County Precinct 7 constable’s deputy Jerry Nash and an unidentified fisherman are shot.

9:30 p.m. – Authorities arrive at Charlie’s Pasture, scene of shooting. Manhunt begins. The area surrounding Charlie’s Pasture is contained. Officers draw fire throughout the night.


3:26 a.m. – Law enforcement radio traffic indicates the suspect is spotted in an open area.

3:30 a.m. – The gunman shoots at a police helicopter.

4:38 a.m. – Radio traffic indicates authorities plan no action until dawn.

9 a.m. – Department of Public Safety SWAT team arrives from Austin.

9:58 a.m. – Officers run police line across Port Road to keep onlookers away.

10:56 a.m. – Department of Public Safety helicopter lands after being hit by bullets.

11:33 a.m. – The gunman fires multiple rounds during the next fifteen minutes.

All officers other than the SWAT team are ordered to hold their positions.

12:01 p.m. – The gunman shoots across the ship channel. Officers are concerned about two people walking on the opposite bank.

12:32 p.m. – Nueces County Chief Deputy Pete Peralta says the suspect is contained.

1:12 p.m. – Gunman fires a shot at a skiff passing in the ship channel.

1:15 p.m. – Kent Krueger, a friend of the suspect, and Tamara Krausman, the suspect’s girlfriend, arrive from San Antonio. They offer to help police talk to the suspect.

1:30 p.m. – An armored car arrives. Officers use the truck as a security shield when approaching the suspect.

2:32 p.m. – All regular police officers are asked to leave the area.

2:44 p.m. – Gunman fires shots at armored truck.

2:46 p.m. – Suspect is reported down.

3:26 p.m. – Precinct 7 Constable Robert Sherwood confirms that the suspect is dead.

Copyright (c) 1996 Corpus Christi Caller-Times