The cops in Texas are calling it “a manhunt for a boy.”
“Charged with killing three people,” Lt. Pedro Barineau of the Garland Police Department told The Daily Beast. “You got a suspected father who drove him to the scene and drove him away.”
Fourteen year-old Abel Elias Acosta of Garland is all of five-foot-eight and 125 pounds. He is believed to be armed with a black and silver .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine. He is the prime suspect in the fatal shooting of three fellow teens and the wounding of a fourth at a gas station convenience store the day after Christmas.
Police have already arrested the boy’s father, 33-year-old Richard Acosta, who also faces murder charges. He is alleged to have driven the son in a white, four-door Dodge Ram pick-up to a Texaco station on Walnut St. on the evening of Dec. 25.
Video recovered by the police shows the father park the truck, stride into the store with his face uncovered. He returned to the truck with what his attorney would later say was medicine for his pregnant wife.
The father backed up and circled around the pumps to the front of the store. A shirtless figure whom police would later identify as Abel climbed out of the front passenger seat and circled around the back of the truck.
Surveillance cameras recorded the figure crouching as he walked alongside the front of the store. His left hand pulled open the door as his right rose, clutching a gun. He remained in the entrance as he fired at least 20 times.
When police responded, they found one teen dead by the drink machines, another dead in an eating area and a third dead in the hallway leading to the restrooms. Two of them, 16-year-old Rafael Garcia and 17-year-old Ivan Noyla, knew each other and police believe that at least one of them was an intended target. The third, 14-year-old Xavier Gonzalez, had gone there to pick up food for his family and seems simply to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“This scene, this incident is just horrible,” Barineau later said.
The video showed the gunman striding quickly back to the white truck and climbing into the rear driver’s side. Police had not yet identified the driver when they made public the images of him making the purchase.
The police spoke to the victims’ families. Det. Lucas Shupe says in an affidavit filed with the court that he asked Rafael Garcia’s two sisters if their brother was affiliated with a gang.
“[They] stated no, but Rafael liked posting pictures of himself holding or pointing guns on Instagram,” the affidavit says.
One of the sisters forwarded a photo to Shupe of Rafael pointing a pistol equipped with a green laser. She also sent a photo of another teen, this one in a black face mask, holding a black and silver pistol with an extended magazine.
A few hours after the interview, the sister sent Shupe a screenshot of a message she had received from a fake Instagram account.
"’Yo brotha dead asf,'" the message read. .
A second message said, “its yall fucken fault.”
That was followed by a message that makes mention of "N$BL,” which the police translate to mean “Northside Blood for life.” Detectives traced the Instagram account to a phone number, and that led them to arrest another 14-year-old. They were interrogating this teen suspect when Richard Acosta showed up at the police station.
The detectives spoke to Richard and decided that they had the wrong 14-year-old and that his son, Abel, was the teen gunman. The detectives also came to a conclusion about the father.
“I believe that Richard Acosta was involved in the capital murder of three victims,” the affadavit says.
In his mugshot, the father has an inexplicable smile.
The father's attorney, Heath Harris, insists that his client was unaware the son was armed. Harris says the father swung back around to the store after making his purchase because the son wanted to buy some Halls lozenges for a sore throat.
By Harris’s account, the father was watching the Dallas Cowboys playing the Washington Football Team on his phone when the son went inside. Harris says the father ducked down on hearing the shots and did not know his son was involved when the boy climbed back into the truck. Harris maintains the boy only told the father that “some people got into it.”
The father drove the boy home. Harris says the father walked his son down the street to where his mother — the boy’s grandmother — lives.
“Because his wife is pregnant and he was worried about getting his wife upset,” Harris told The Daily Beast.
Harris says the father figured his son could talk to his grandmother about what happened.
“[The son] subsequently just left and he doesn't know where he went,” Harris said.
Harris says the father thought he was only being sought as a witness when he turned himself in. The attorney maintains that his client only learned of the shooting when Harris showed him video of it.
The authorities remained convinced that the father was involved. Richard Acosta — a contractor who has worked on everything from schools to the Rockwell police station and whose only criminal conviction was for assault during a fight — was arraigned on a charge of “captal murder – multiple persons.” He was held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Richard Acosta is due in court for a hearing on Friday and Harris says his client will offer his account “in his own words.” Abel was still at large as of Thursday.
Abel had also posed with a gun on social media, which generally frowns on nudity, but sees nothing wrong with a 14 year- old with an automatic pistol in his right hand. A weapon such as that had killed three teens in less than a minute. Police have released the photo and hope that, along with a $10,000 reward, will assist in his capture as they hunt for him as they would for any suspected killer.