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Jacksonville murder suspect captured at Texas hurricane shelter

Julian Williams accused in deadly double shooting at gas station

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville murder suspect wanted in connection with a deadly gas station shooting was captured this week at a Houston-area hurricane shelter, the Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Julian Williams, 36, was taken into custody Tuesday on an out-of-state fugitive warrant in Harris County after authorities received a Crime Stoppers tip. He had been sought by Jacksonville police for months.

Williams is suspected of shooting 20-year-old Christopher Thurston during a July 23 encounter at a gas station near Blanding Boulevard and Duclay Road, police previously said.

According to court records, Williams was arguing with another man inside the business when Thurston walked inside. The door bumped into Williams and the pair traded words, records show.

The arrest warrant states Williams was seen following Thurston down an aisle, shooting him once in the chest and then shooting another man who tried to intervene. Several witnesses identified Williams as the shooter.

"This is someone who seemed like he was already on edge and just went over the top by shooting two people," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. 

Thurston was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, but did not survive.

The other man who tried to intervene, Brandon Vital, was shot in the leg and wounded, his mother, Amanda Vital, told News4Jax on Thursday.

She said her son and her godson, Thurston, grew up together since they were 14 years old.

"I love him dearly and it was a very tragic moment," she said.

Amanda Vital said her family can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that Williams has been captured by police. 

"I just thank God that he's in custody. He can't harm anyone. We just want to get this over with and now Chris can rest in peace and Brandon can have relief," she said. "I feel like I can sleep better and get on with my life and I hope Brandon can get counseling or whatever he needs to do to get past this."

Although her godson died a horrible death, Amanda Vital said, her son actually saved more people from being harmed.

"He's a hero. Brandon's a hero. He saved nine lives and no one is looking into that. No one is saying, 'OK. Brandon, you're a hero. Thank you for saving my life.' It's awful to say no one stepped in to help him," she said.

News4Jax also spoke with Brandon Vital, but he said it was too hard for him to comment because he's still shook up from being shot and watching someone who was like a brother to him being killed.

A background check showed that Williams does not have any family ties to Houston. Smith said it's unusual for a murder suspect to go to place where has no family.

"Sometimes they go back to a place where they used to live or an area they are familiar with or where they have friends and family," Smith said. "We don’t know why he went to Houston. Maybe he was thinking he would go to a very large city where he could blend in and not be noticed. That could be a possibility but at this time, we just don’t know."

Williams faces charges of murder, aggravated battery and possession of a firearm by a felon. It remains unclear when he will be extradited back to Jacksonville.


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