Former hostage speaks out

Joshua Cox crouches in his attic where suspect Jerry Berry Jr. hid after he broke in and took Cox hostage on June 3.

Joshua and Audra Cox haven’t been able to bring their children home to 718 S. 15th St. after the June 3 shooting and arrest of Jerry Berry Jr. by the Temple Police Department was made there.

The incident took its toll on the Cox family and their home.

All but three windows were shot out by Temple officers, and bullet holes still riddled the walls. Gaping holes in the ceiling served as reminders of the violence that occurred two weeks after the Cox family moved in.

Spent and unspent tear gas grenades were found inside and outside the house, and Josh also found at least two handfuls of waddling left behind after the shooting. Bullet fragments were removed from a bedroom wall Wednesday afternoon.

Two broken windows in their 4-year-old son’s bedroom showed where either tear gas canisters or bullets penetrated the home. Three bullet holes in one bedroom were fired right above where their 1-month-old son’s crib was located.

One exterior wall has what appeared to be a bullet hole circled in black and the number 45 was written beside it.

Josh, who was held hostage by Berry after he broke in through the front door, said that he believes that all of the shooting and damage at the house was done by Temple Police officers. No one from the city of Temple has offered to help repair or pay for the damage, he said.

Temple Police Department spokeswoman Shawana Neely said Wednesday that she didn’t have information available about what, if any, assistance the police department or the city provides for crime victims.

Remembering the incident

Josh heard two gunshots coming from the front door area on June 3, and Berry kicked the door in. Josh said that Berry was calm and didn’t immediately threaten him.

“It seemed like he already knew what the day held for him,” Josh said.

Josh and Berry reportedly sparred on either side of a bedroom door — Josh to try to get away and Berry to stop him, Josh said.

Berry then tried to get out of a bedroom window, but it wouldn’t budge because it was painted shut. Berry asked Josh if he had a screwdriver or something to pry open the window, and Josh said that he would look. But it wasn’t long before Berry asked Josh if he had an attic.

Berry offered Josh $150,000 if he would hide him, but Josh refused the money and told him that “he just wanted to make it through the night.” He cooperated with Berry and helped boost him into the attic. While doing that, Josh said that he noticed that the cartridge in Berry’s weapon was empty, but he didn’t risk any other action because he didn’t know if Berry had more ammunition.

An arrest affidavit said the Berry fired a gun three different times at Temple Police officers before he was wounded in a shootout.

Josh said he didn’t immediately leave the house after he helped Berry into the attic. He didn’t know if Berry could see him through the attic’s vents or how to safely make it out of the house without being shot by police.

He went to a corner in the front room of the house and crouched there for about 30 minutes until he decided he had to do something. That’s when he kicked out a window on the side of his home and got out, Josh said.

The effect on the family

Audra and their children had left the house about 10 minutes before the shooting. Audra said she started receiving text messages from her husband that something was going on in their neighborhood, she said.

The next time Audra saw her husband was when Temple Police officers led him around the corner in handcuffs, walked him to a trailer at Avenue G and 17th Street and “debriefed him” for about 45 minutes, she said.

“I didn’t want to be here,” was Audra’s first thought after the shooting was over and she had to come back to the house where the violence occurred.

“Our lives still aren’t back together,” she said. “We can’t even bring our kids home yet.”

Questions remain about shooting

Temple Police have released few details about the incident.

The type of weapons officers used at the residence fired “less-than-lethal chemical projectiles,” Neely said when asked what weapons were used during the incident.

Neely directed Telegram questions about how many shots were fired or how many tear gas containers were fired into and around the house to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the lead investigative agency in the officer-involved shooting.

“I am unable to provide answers to the other questions as they are part of the ongoing investigation. This investigation process may be lengthy as there are a lot details and factors in the case. When more information becomes available to release, I will immediately send out an update,” Neely said.

The five Temple Police officers placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting were back at work by June 16, Neely told the Telegram. Although the arrest affidavit listed three of the officers who allegedly returned gunfire at Berry, the names of two SWAT officers who shot Berry once each in the attic have not been released by the department.

Berry, 36, of Temple, was hospitalized until about June 21 at Scott & White Medical Center-Temple, but was then taken to the Bell County Jail, where he remained Wednesday on bonds totaling $798,500. He was indicted June 21 for five felony charges: three counts of aggravated assault against a public servant (repeat offender), burglary of a habitation with intent to commit other felony (repeat offender) and the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon (repeat offender).

Who is helping?

Spotless Crime Clean LLC, which specializes in cleaning after suicides, homicides and accidents, was among the companies that stepped in to help the Cox family.

The company, owned by Josh and Kyli Abbatoye, came in to disinfect the biological hazard in the attic caused by Berry’s blood loss.

The Abbatoyes couldn’t breathe when they first walked into the home because of the tear gas, Josh Abbatoye said. He said that tear gas was still coming through the attic into the house.

Insulation that was soaked with tear gas was removed and replaced. Furniture and household items were removed from the master bedroom so that Cox could dispose of the carpet, glass and gas canisters. Tear gas residue was removed from the 4-year-old’s bedroom, but the bedding and his favorite stuffed animals were saved after the Abbatoyes ran them through a sanitizing cycle.

Some donations were received to help the family.

Lowe’s of Temple matched the crime scene company’s costs, donated insulation and waived fees for an insulation machine. Sunbelt Rentals in Waco gave a large discount on the cost of an insulation vacuum, and Corey McGregor of Triple Crown Glass and Mirror donated the glass for the damaged windows and didn’t charge anything for labor. A contracting crew building a home gave the family a full sheet of drywall, and other people gave cash or donations for the children.

“Everything we’ve done is part of putting their house back together,” Kyli said.

Josh Cox’s voice still trembles and his eyes tear up when he recalls the events of that night.

“If anything good comes out of this, I would like the Temple Police Department to change how they handle the aftermath of incidents like this,” he said.