Houston, TX – A career criminal accused of brutally stabbing an 80-year-old grandmother to death outside a Walgreens store was out on two felony personal recognizance bonds at the time of the deadly attack.
Randy Lewis, 38, was released from a psychiatric hospital in April without bond in connection with felony assault on a peace officer and felony theft offenses, KHOU reported.
One of the felony charges involved him attacking a corrections officer and breaking his nose, according to court documents.
He had racked up nearly 70 criminal charges over the years, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) tweeted on Monday.
“Why was he out?” HPOU President Joe Gamaldi asked, according to KHOU. “He’s been arrested 67 times – charged 67 times. And now we have an 80-year-old woman who is dead.”
At approximately 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, Houston police received a report that a man was tormenting customers outside a Fiesta Mart store in the 8600-block of South Braeswood Boulevard, KPRC reported.
The suspect, later identified as Lewis, was allegedly demanding money from people and threatening them with a knife, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said during a press conference later that day.
Officers were at the scene within six minutes, but were unable to locate the suspect.
Meanwhile, 80-year-old widow Rosalie Cook was out shopping for a greeting card at the Walgreens store across the street from the Fiesta Mart, her son, Chuck Cook, told KHOU.
Chuck Cook said that his mother was disabled and relied on a cane to get around.
As Rosalie Cook left the store and was heading back to her car, Lewis ambushed her and plunged a six-inch knife into her chest, KTRK reported.
“This suspect stabbed an 80-year-old woman then goes down, rifles through her stuff and tries to steal her car,” Chief Acevedo told reporters.
A bystander frantically attempted to apply pressure to Rosalie Cook’s stab wound while another witness flagged down a Houston police officer who was still in the area, KHOU reported.
The officer, a nine-year veteran-of-the-force, rushed to the scene and confronted Lewis, who was behind the wheel of Rosalie Cook’s vehicle and still in possession of the blade, according to KPRC.
He ordered Lewis to get out of the vehicle for about 15 seconds before the armed suspect emerged from the car and lunged at him with the knife.
The officer fired two rounds, fatally wounding the suspect.
Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, KPRC reported.
Rosalie Cook was rushed to Memorial Hermann hospital, where she succumbed to her stab wound.
Chief Acevedo said that the incident was captured by store security cameras and the officer’s bodycam, KHOU reported.
The chief said that Lewis was a violent repeat offender who should not have been out on the streets in the first place.
“Where’s the outrage when our cops are putting their lives on the line arresting the same person time and again who’s got a violent history?” he asked, according to KHOU.
Chief Acevedo referred to Houston’s criminal justice reform and bail reform as “a complete disaster.”
“Where is the outrage? Don’t come and talk to me about officer-involved shootings when judges keep putting these crooks out on the street again,” he added, according to KTRK.
Chuck Cook said that his family feels that the criminal justice system failed his mother, who leaves behind four children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
“The justice system let us down,” he told KHOU. “There is absolutely no reason this man should have been out on the street, absolutely no reason at all.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s office said that the judge was the one responsible for Lewis being released from custody while his felony charges were pending.
“The defendant had a history of mental illness and he should have been kept off the streets,” Ogg’s office said in a statement to KHOU. “He recently absconded from the personal-care facility where the judge ordered he live instead of being held in jail.”
“The judge had not issued a warrant for his arrest even when he had absconded, so police did not even know to look for him and unfortunately this tragedy occurred before he could be returned to court,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Chief Acevedo offered his condolences to the Cook family in a tweet on Monday night.
“Our hearts go out to the Cook family and to all…who knew and loved this sweet woman,” he wrote. “May she Rest In Peace and may we all work to address the broken criminal justice system in Harris County [that] is bent on coddling violent criminals. We deserve better.”