Johnathan Aguilar, the Freebirds World Burrito employee who was murdered in a random mass stabbing incident in downtown Austin, was remembered for his genuine and caring nature.
Although authorities have not yet named the man who died in the stabbing attack, multiple Austin, Texas news outlets have done so. Brice Bowden, a friend of Aguilar’s, told The Austin American-Statesman that Aguilar was a “genuine, caring and loving person. You meet these really genuine, beautiful people in this world and when they go early like that it just hurts so much more.”
Police confirmed that they were investigating a mass stabbing attack downtown and that one person had died. “Update to incident in 500 Block of Congress Ave: One person is confirmed deceased,” police added. The attack occurred in the early morning hours of January 3, 2019.
“The suspect is a 27-year-old White male. He was transported to a local hospital,” Austin police wrote. They have not yet released the suspect’s name.
Police confirmed that the suspect is homeless. That confirmation came after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stoked controversy on Twitter, writing, “When all facts are revealed I bet you’ll learn that the killer was a homeless man with prior arrests. If so Austin’s reckless homeless policy puts lives in danger to murders like this. Austin leaders must answer for their perilous policies.” Journalist Rudy Koski reported that the suspect has a “violent criminal history.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aguilar, Who Authorities Say Was Randomly Stabbed, Worked as the Kitchen Manager
In a press conference, Austin police Sgt. David Daniels said that, at 7:49 a.m. on January 3, 2020, officers were called to Bennu Coffee Shop for a disturbance between the suspect and a customer at a coffee shop. “The disturbance escalated and patrons at the coffee shop intervened and detained the suspect in question.” The first incident at the coffee shop was not a stabbing.
Police were en route to the scene when the suspect “broke away and took off running toward the Freebirds shop…” said Daniels. Police gave chase on foot. The officer lost sight of him. Police then received calls from Freebirds in reference to a stabbing. Once they got inside, they located two victims who had been stabbed.
The deceased employee stabbed, says KVUE-TV, is Aguilar, who worked as kitchen manager of the Freebirds.
A Facebook friend of Aguilar’s, who also worked at Freebirds, wrote on Facebook, “Spent 5 years at this store with a lot of people I still consider family. My heart is with them on this incredibly tragic day.”
You can listen to the initial scanner audio below. It doesn’t start until about 7 minutes in. In a written news release, police gave this account: “On Friday, January 3, 2020, at approximately 7:49 a.m., APD officers responded to a suspicious persons call at the Bennu Coffee shop located at 515 S. Congress Ave, Suite #108. Upon arrival, two patrons of the coffee shop were actively trying to detain the suspect, a White male in his mid 20s, that had assaulted another patron for no apparent reason. During the struggle to arrest the suspect, the suspect was able to break free and ran from the business. ”
“At approximately 8:11 a.m., another call came into 911 advising that the suspect that ran from the coffee shop had fled towards the Freebirds World Burrito restaurant located in Suite #101. Another call came in from an employee of Freebirds advising that he and a coworker had been stabbed by the suspect,” the police news release continued.
2. Aguilar, a Father Who Was Engaged, Was Remembered as Selfless & Having a ‘Beautiful Soul’
The friend who spoke to KVUE-TV about Aguilar, and who didn’t want to be named, told the television station that Aguilar had worked at Freebirds for eight years. He remembered Aguilar as a “selfless guy with a beautiful soul” and said he leaves behind a child.
On Facebook, Aguilar wrote that he worked at Freebirds World Burrito, went to Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin, and was from Austin. He was engaged, according to his Facebook profile. His top visible Facebook post is a joking post from 2018 that is captioned, “When you work at Free Birds, and get caught eating Cabo Bob’s.”
On Facebook, he expressed an interest in video games and movies. In 2015, he wrote about the sequel to the movie Creed, “I watched this trailer with tears in my eyes. I remember seeing these movies since I was little. So im pumped for this move.”
Aguilar also posted a now eerie video that is titled, “The strangest thing happened at work.”
“Why do the weird people always have to sit next to me?” he says in the video before the camera pans to show a pinata next to him.
Sgt. Daniels said in the press conference that the suspect jumped off the roof of Freebirds.
“The suspect managed to make his way out of Freebirds and somehow managed to get on the top of the roof of this business and ended up jumping off the roof and sustained injuries,” he said.
In a news release, police said: “The suspect was seen by another witness leaving the business and climbing onto the roof. The suspect was then seen running and jumping off the roof where he sustained life-threatening injuries. Austin-Travis County EMS arrived on scene and transported one of the Freebirds employees and the suspect to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. The employee is currently in stable but serious condition and the suspect remains in critical condition. Despite life saving measures by EMS, the second Freebirds employee succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 8:30 a.m.”
“It looked like he came out of Freebirds,” a viewer told KXAN-TV of the suspect. “Then he ran down the area between the building and the creek area, he then climbed a ladder laying against the building. He jumped from that ladder to the ladder attached to the building.”
Andrea Trisdale told KXAN: “I see a young man running in the back of the building next to my apartment and I see a police officer chasing after him yelling, ‘Police! stop!’”
3. Aguilar Was Opening the Restaurant When the Suspect Entered
KXAN-TV also identified the victim as Aguilar and spoke with his brother. The family was too upset to say much. However, Aguilar’s brother, Tony Aguilar, told the television station that Aguilar was attacked as he was opening the restaurant for the day.
According to Austin-Travis County EMS, four people were injured in the attack. “500blk S Congress Ave: #ATCEMSMedics have obtained Deceased On Scene pronouncement ~20s male. 1st patient, ~50s male has been transported to local trauma center with serious potentially life threat stab injury. 2 additional patients still on scene. More to follow,” the agency wrote on its Twitter page.
The EMS also wrote, “No additional transports have occurred at this point. 2 patients remain on scene, 1 with continued CPR in progress. #ATCEMSMedics have regained pulses on 2nd patient with CPR from traumatic arrest. Transporting ~20s male to local trauma center with critical life threatening injuries. 4th patient is a refusal. EMS is clearing the scene. No further info available.”
Earlier, the EMS page wrote, “On scene command reporting 4 total patients being treated & prepped for transport. 4 #ATCEMS ambulances, 3 Commanders & Physician Assistant on scene.”
4. Austin Police Say the Suspect Is in Custody & Called the Murder ‘Completely Random’
Police have not specified a motive, other than saying the attack was random in nature. “This incident appears to be completely random,” Austin police wrote in a press release.
Clinton Christine Rarey shared the Facebook group Take Back Austin and a petition link and wrote, “AUSTIN IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION!!! A young man named Johnathan Aguilar lost his life yesterday at the hands of a violent vagrant. We have all noticed the escalating crime and violence at the hands of vagrants since the Mayor and City Council enacted their irresponsible policies. Our pleas to city leadership fell on deaf ears and now an innocent person has lost their life to senseless, random violence. PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS PRECIOUS LOSS OF LIFE BE IN VAIN.”
“APD is working a shoot/stab hotshot in the 500 block of Congress Ave. #20-30396. Avoid the area if possible. More information to follow when available,” police wrote on the morning of January 3, 2020.
They added: “Suspect is in custody. At this time, no other known suspects are outstanding. More information to follow when available.” Police have not provided additional details.
5. Freebirds Issued a Statement Saying Its Thoughts Are With Those Affected by the Tragedy
In a statement given to KVUE-TV, Freebirds CEO said: “Freebirds World Burrito is cooperating with authorities who are investigating the incident that took place at our South Congress location. Our thoughts are with our Tribe members and their families who have been affected by this tragedy. The location will remain closed until further notice and we ask for respect of our Tribe members’ privacy during this difficult time.”
According to WTOL, the suspect “was detained by civilians outside of the business” but got away, ran inside, and allegedly started stabbing people at that time.
People posted information on social media. “My sister is there by the bank and she said there’s EMS and police all over. Y’all be safe!” wrote one woman on Twitter.
EMS wrote: “Reported stabbing incident with multiple patients & two patients with CPR in progress. Avoid the area. Multiple public safety agencies responding.”
Heavy has reached out to several friends and family members of Aguilar, and this post is being updated as more information is learned about him.
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