“No matter how much you know them, it still feels like you lost part of your family,” 37-year-old McCamey resident Levi Lopez said about the Wednesday shooting death of Upton County Deputy Billy “Bubba” Kennedy.
“You’re familiar and automatically you feel that loss. I’m not going to see him at the Dollar General anymore, I’m not going to see him drive by the laundromat.”
The 1,844-person community was sent reeling after an 11:15 p.m. shooting Wednesday that killed Kennedy at the Stripes Convenience Store.
Gary David Green, 50, has been charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting, and was in critical condition at Medical Center Hospital after being shot himself. Green is being held on a $1 million bond through Upton County.
Several people who have secondhand knowledge of the incident said a man arrived at the Stripes Convenience Store trying to buy gas, food and drinks.
The man then told the clerk he could not pay, and started to become agitated, saying, “I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”
Although other details are limited and sometimes conflicting, the sources all agreed that a firefight began between the man and two deputies; one of them was Billy Kennedy and the other was Deputy Thomas Stiles, who has been with the department for eight months.
Lekena Poung, the 43-year-old owner of a donut shop across the street from the Stripes store, said she went into a back room of the shop when she heard the gunshots.
Because of the echo behind her shop, Poung said she heard eight to 11 shots, while others said they heard about four. She also didn’t know the shooting was happening in the front of her store.
But when the ambulances started arriving, Poung said she turned on her lights so officers could see. Poung also saw what was unfolding in front of her.
“I saw the man was on the ground, legs to the street, head to the store, bleeding,” Poung said. “I saw he’s dressed casual. I think he’s the suspect. I think the suspect’s down.”
Poung said it wasn’t until Thursday morning she found out the person who had been shot and was laying on the ground was Billy Kennedy.
She said she watched even as the paramedics gave him CPR.
“I noticed they stopped, I already know he was already gone,” Poung said. “They covered him with the white cloth. I feel bad for the town. We live in a small world.”
Texas Ranger Dewayne Goll, who was on the scene Thursday morning, said he could not comment about the shooting, and the Upton County Sheriff’s Office declined comment all day Thursday with exception to a short news release sent in the morning.
Green, whose last known address was in Godley, recently spent time in prison.
Jason Clark, spokesman with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Green was released from prison on July 15, 2011, on other charges.
Specifically, Clark said he was convicted in November 2007 of aggravated assault with bodily injury and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was then convicted in December 2007 of possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana, sentenced to six years and one year, respectively. All of the sentences were served concurrently.
While Lopez was among a number of McCamey residents who expressed grief and sadness at the shooting, his family also was in a state of disbelief.
Will Kennedy, the owner of K&S Trucking in McCamey and Billy Kennedy’s cousin, said the sheriff’s deputy had a contagious smile and was passionate about his wife, Jodie, and his two sons, 15-year-old Lane and 10-year-old Blake.
“He was a good friend. Probably more of a friend than a cousin,” Will Kennedy said. “Cousin is just a bonus.”
Will Kennedy said his cousin and the family were all team ropers, often practicing in small arena Billy Kennedy constructed outside his home in Rankin.
Billy Kennedy and his family also enjoyed hunting, Will Kennedy said, but the man they called “Bubba” didn’t like all outdoor sports.
He was terrible at golf, Will Kennedy said, even getting kicked off a course for throwing too many clubs, and he didn’t enjoy fishing because the lines got tangled too often.
But aside from the golf course, Will Kennedy said Billy Kennedy was a laid-back person, always smiling. And even though he wasn’t always a law enforcement officer, often dabbling in the oilfield, Billy Kennedy had it in his blood.
“For some reason he always came back and ended up in law enforcement,” Will Kennedy said.
Enue Molina, the owner of Benoit’s Restaurant and the woman the community fondly refers to as “Grandma,” said Billy Kennedy always came into her restaurant when he was in McCamey.
“He was a special person,” Molina said.
But Molina said while she is happy in the community, sometimes people can do crazy things.
Misty Carrillo, the owner of Head to Toe Salon and Spa, said the shooting was a shock to everyone in town.
“There’s a lot of new people out here,” Carrillo said. “It’s scary. It’s different.”
And although she said she didn’t want to go to work today, Carrillo said she went in anyway knowing she would hear gossip throughout the day.
Carrillo said she believes it will bring the community together, however.
Such was the case with a community vigil hosted Thursday night in McCamey.
One thing that remains is Billy Kennedy’s memory.
Will Kennedy said he has too many stories to recount about Billy Kennedy, “a lot of them that have to do with women and beer.”
But many of them also include Billy Kennedy helping those around him, whether they are family, friends or strangers.
One such story was when Will Kennedy had too much to drink one night. He said Billy Kennedy drove from Sheffield to McCamey to pick him up and take him home.
“He brought me in the house and the only thing he asked was, ‘Don’t tell (your wife) that I brought you home,’” Will Kennedy said. “Man, he was scared of her. He’d take care of everybody.”
As he often did, Will Kennedy said he spoke with his cousin just days before the shooting.
“I told him all the time he needed to watch it,” Will Kennedy said.