Police in Houston have questioned a man in connection with the shooting of a judge in the Austin, Texas, area, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The man, arrested on an unrelated fugitive warrant, has some sort of connection to Judge Julie Kocurek, the presiding felony judge for Travis County, the official said.
Because the man hasn’t been criminally charged in the shooting, officials have not identified him or released details.
Austin police said they are aware of the developments in Houston but wouldn’t comment further because the investigation is still going on. Houston is about three hours from Austin.
Kocurek is hospitalized and recovering. Colleagues wondered if it was a targeted attack.
“The idea that you would be ambushed or attacked in your home for the work that you do was just mind-boggling to me,” Travis County Administrative Judge Lora Livingston told CNN.
Attacked in her driveway
Kocurek was attacked on her driveway as she was driving home from a football game on Friday night.
The Austin American-Statesman, citing sources, said someone put a garbage bag or can in the middle of the driveway, forcing Kocurek’s car to stop.
Someone came out of the darkness and began firing.
Kocurek’s injuries were from shrapnel and glass, the newspaper said.
Investigators don’t have a suspect.
“Unfortunately this occurred during the darkness,” Cmdr. Mark Spangler of the Austin Police Department told reporters.
Poring through cases
Investigators are poring through the judge’s extensive cases, looking for anyone who might have a grudge and a reason to retaliate.
But Kocurek has spent about 25 years in Austin working as a prosecutor and then a judge. That’s a long list of potential defendants who might feel they’ve been wronged.
Defense lawyer David Minton said there’s no question in his mind the judge was targeted. He has known Kocurek for years and says she’s long been considered a fair and thoughtful judge.
“But clearly in her job and the number of years she’s been on the bench, she would have had to make some enemies for doing her job,” he told CNN. “It’s just something that comes with the territory. But you never think it would come to this.”
Kocurek has been the presiding judge of the 390th District Court since January 1999, according to her official webpage. She’s had her hand in many cases in that time, including high-profile political cases involving former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
She has also been active in the local community, including serving as a local co-chair in the National Campaign to Stop Violence, a past board member of the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin and a supporter of the West Austin Youth Association.
In recent years, several judges and prosecutors have been targeted in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Richard Daronco was shot and killed in 1988 at his Pelham, New York, home by a man upset over Daronco’s dismissal of the man’s daughter’s sexual discrimination lawsuit.
The next year, federal Appeals Court Judge Robert Vance died after opening a mail bomb.
And in 2005, the husband and mother of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow were shot dead inside Lefkow’s Chicago home. A plaintiff whose case Lefkow had dismissed claimed responsibility for the slayings in a suicide note.
More recently, and closer to Kocurek’s Austin home, prosecutor Mark Hasse was fatally shot in 2013 outside the Kaufman County, Texas, Courthouse.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland responded to that shooting by vowing to put away the “scum” who’d killed one of his top deputies. Two months later, McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot dead inside their home east of Dallas.
Eric Williams, a former Kaufman County justice of the peace, was later convicted of capital murder in Cynthia McLelland’s death. Williams wasn’t put on trial for the death of Michael McLelland or Hasse, though authorities did accuse him in both killings.
As for Kocurek, her recovery continues
“Judge Kocurek is receiving great care from a wonderful team of doctors and nurses,” her family said in a statement Monday night. “Their efforts, along with Judge Kocurek’s faith, are helping her improve every day.”