A 43-year-old Alabama man killed three people with a high-powered rifle before fatally shooting himself Sunday, Limestone County sheriff's officials said Monday. Police say Darwin Brazier shot and killed his 41-year-old ex-wife Debra Rivera, her new husband and another man before turning a gun on himself hours later.
Rivera had reportedly twice asked a court for a protection order against Brazier - including a stipulation that would have required him to surrender firearms, The News Courier reported. Both her requests were denied.
Officials said they first received a call shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday from a woman who told them she had received a text from Brazier saying he had just killed three people and was planning to kill himself.
Police arrived at a residence to find the bodies of Brazier's ex-wife, her new husband, 41-year-old Radex Rivera, and the couple's roommate, Timothy Hayward-Boger, lying on the back porch surrounded by shell casings. Police say he fired 30 rounds from an SKS rifle with a high-capacity magazine.
The sheriff’s office released Brazier's mugshot and asked the public to stay away, calling him possibly armed and likely dangerous. Police searched several locations before locating him near his residence at around 8 p.m., according to a news release.
Officers approaching heard a shot.
"The SWAT team believed they were receiving gunfire," Madison County Lt. Donny Shaw told AL.com. But the officers later discovered that Brazier had shot and killed himself with a handgun, police say.
"Considering the possible outcomes of what could've happened, and the way this developed and the time that went by, I'd certainly say it's as successful of a resolution as you could expect," Stephen Young, Public Information Officer at the Limestone County Sheriff's Office, told WHNT.
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said in a statement that the situation arose out of a "long history of domestic violence." Rivera and Brazier divorced in 2005 and later had undergone a contentious custody hearing in which Rivera received control of the couple's two children, the Decatur Daily reported.
Rivera had twice asked for a court protection order against her ex-husband after claiming he was harassing her, according to the paper. He was also charged with harassment in 1994, but the charges were dropped, WAAY reported.
“He calls my husband threatening to hurt both of us,” Rivera wrote in one court filing in March of 2018, which was obtained by Heavy. "He calls our phones using IP phone numbers to see what we are doing, drives by my house all hours of the day to check where I am, follows me to the store. He won’t stop trying to see where I am. He is upset I am now married and don’t want to be with him. He has been physical with me in the past (and) pulled a gun on me.”
One protection order petition in 2017 included a request that Brazier be required to surrender any firearms, the Decatur Daily reported. That request was denied, as was the most recent one, the paper reported.
"If it's well-grounded, then a judge can issue an order towards the other individual for them to stay away from you," Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard told WHNT. "The idea is that it will deter somebody from continuing to harass you, or bother you, or threaten you. But the big variable there is: who are you dealing with, and ultimately, is it going to be nothing more than a piece of paper?"
Court records do not indicate why the petitions were denied, although The News Courier reports that Rivera represented herself and Brazier was represented by an attorney. The attorney said his client denied "each and every" accusation of abuse, CBS News reported. The judge, B. Chadwick Wise, did not respond to a request for comment from the network or the Decatur Daily.
"When tragedies like this happen and you have multiple casualties, it sometimes tends to make area residents feel unsafe,” Sheriff Mike Blakely said in a statement. “Limestone County was recently voted and rated the safest county in Alabama. This type of incident, although tragic, doesn’t take away from that. The victims were specific domestic targets of the offender. This was an unnecessary and unfortunate escalation of what appears to be a long-term history of domestic violence."