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Police: Texas judge shot outside her home

Posted at 1:11 PM, Nov 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-08 13:11:05-05

A Texas judge is in a local hospital after being shot overnight outside her Austin home, a police lieutenant said.

Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek was struck around 10:15 p.m. (11:15 p.m. ET) Friday near her house in the Texas capital’s Tarrytown neighborhood, said Austin police Lt. Lee Rogers.

The judge was last listed in stable condition at a nearby hospital, Rogers told CNN on Saturday morning.

Austin police Cmdr. Mark Spangler told reporters that officers arrived within about five minutes of a 911 call, after which Kocurek was taken to University Medical Center-Brackenridge, according to video posted on the Austin American-Statesman’s website.

“This injury, although extremely serious, does not appear to be life-threatening at this time,” Spangler said.

As Kocurek recovers, authorities are trying to track down who shot her and why.

Early Saturday, though, “we don’t have a lot of information,” said Spangler. “Unfortunately, this occurred during the darkness.”

Court’s presiding judge since 1999

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 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.

Did any of these experiences — either as a judge or in the community — have anything to do with the Friday night shooting? Or could she have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the shooter perhaps not even knowing who she was?

Authorities haven’t given any indication, either way.

Still, there are several examples of judges and prosecutors being targeted in the United States in recent years.

Texas prosecutors killed in 2013

U.S. District Judge Richard Daronco, for example, 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, though, 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.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes tied all three killings to Williams’ “past legal problems with the criminal justice system of this county,” including a 2012 conviction on burglary and theft charges that led to his removal as justice of the peace.