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Police name different 14-year-old as suspect in Garland shooting, say he's armed and dangerous

Police identified the suspect as 14-year-old Abel Elias Acosta and said he should be considered armed and dangerous.

GARLAND, Texas — Updated at 8:43 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 with a statement from Garland ISD.

Police have named an alleged shooter in the killing of three teenagers at a convenience store in Garland, and authorities are still searching for the suspect, officials announced in a news release Wednesday.

Police identified the suspect as 14-year-old Abel Elias Acosta and said Acosta should be considered armed and dangerous. Police said detectives believe Acosta is "actively evading capture" and asked for the public's help, according to the news release.

Police said his father, Richard Acosta Jr., 33, who was arrested Tuesday, was the getaway driver in the shooting.

The shooting happened the day after Christmas. Police on Wednesday said the shooting was spurred by a previous disturbance between Abel Acosta and one of the victims inside the convenience store, though more information was not released.

"This is a heinous crime. The mind behind this type of offense...it's so hard to comprehend," Garland police PIO Pedro Barineau told WFAA. "At age 14, if he's willing to do this, we don't know what the future holds. But we know that he's willing to kill."

One day later, police said a 14-year-old - a different teen, not Abel Acosta - was in custody and believed to have pulled the trigger. 

But about 24 hours after announcing the teen's arrest, police reversed course saying new information revealed the teen had direct knowledge of the crime, but they no longer believed him to be the shooter.

Detectives obtained a directive to apprehend Abel Acosta, which is ordered by a juvenile court judge to take a child into custody on the request of law enforcement.

Garland police said they do not typically release juvenile information but that "due to the nature of the offense and potential risk to the public, the court has authorized the release of his information."

WFAA also does not typically release the name of juveniles, or post their picture, but is doing so because police are looking for Acosta and say he is armed and dangerous.

Anyone who sees Acosta or knows his whereabouts is asked to call 911 immediately. 

Garland Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. And in addition, police said Jerry Reynolds, president of Car Pro Radio Network and owner of KPIR, has offered an additional $5,000 – making the total reward $10,000. 

Crime Stoppers tips can be submitted by phone at 972-272-8477 or on the Garland Crime Stoppers website.

Acosta is not the 14-year-old who was taken into custody on Monday, though that teen, whose name has not been released, "remains a person of interest in the investigation," the news release from Garland police said. The teen was released to his family and is cooperating with the investigation, police said.

Police said detectives discovered evidence that identified Acosta as the shooter who killed three other teenagers Sunday evening at a Texaco store in the 700 block of Walnut Street. Police did not provide more information about the evidence they found.

The victims were identified as 14-year-old Xavier Gonzalez, 16-year-old Ivan Noyala and 17-year-old Rafael Garcia.

At a funeral Thursday for Gonzalez, his family said the 14-year-old was an innocent bystander who just at the store buying food for the family.

"He was the heart of the family," Gonzalez's aunt, Erika, told WFAA.

"We just want justice to be done. We want him to be caught. We want [the suspect] to be caught. We want him to pay for everything that he said," Erika Gonzalez added.

Garland Independent School District released a statement about Gonzalez Dec. 31, saying, "We are heartbroken by this loss, and we grieve with the family, students and friends."

The fourth victim, a 15-year-old boy who worked at the taco stand inside the gas station, was said to be in stable condition in a local hospital, per police.

The shooter could be seen shirtless on surveillance video, getting out of a white pickup truck and going to the front door of the store, where he fired his weapon.

Police said 33-year-old Richard Acosta Jr., Abel Acosta's father, was driving the pickup truck. Richard Acosta Jr. was arrested Tuesday, but police said he was not the shooter.

"The fact that we're putting it all together now and realizing the driver, who voluntarily turned himself in, is the father of the shooter, Abel Acosta, it blows us away," Barineau told WFAA. "As a father, you look at the youth, the future of society, those that are going to be leading us...and the fact that there are some...and this is a very few some, that are willing to do this type of violence, it blows me away. It's so hard to comprehend."

Richard Acosta is being held at the Garland Detention Center with his bond set at $1 million.

Reporter Jay Wallis and anchor Cynthia Izaguirre contributed to this report.