GARLAND, Texas — Police officers remember places based on cases.
They know a street because of a crash or a neighborhood because of a break-in.
They know a Texaco gas station in Garland because of a mystery – a maddening murder mystery.
“It’s actually pretty infuriating,” admits Garland police detective Lucas Shupe.
He believes he knows who the killer is, but no one can find him.
And he’s convinced he’s getting help from someone.
“I didn’t think a 14-year-old could stay gone this long. I really did not,” Shupe said.
Shupe began searching for Abel Acosta in the final days of 2021.
Police normally do not release the identity of juvenile suspects, but Garland police made an exception because Abel Acosta is accused in a triple murder.
The day after Christmas, three teenagers died inside the Texaco at 730 West Walnut in Garland.
Someone opened the convenience store door and fired off at least 20 rounds, according to police.
Shupe was assigned as the lead detective that very night.
Surveillance cameras captured video of the shooter, the truck he was riding in and the man, police say, was driving.
Shupe was hopeful the clear images caught by multiple cameras would help them quickly zero in on the suspects
He was partially right.
The day after police circulated the surveillance evidence, the driver turned himself in.
He’s 33-year-old Richard Acosta, Jr.
His son is Abel Acosta, the 14-year-old Garland police have identified as the shooter.
He remains on the run almost five months after the crime, and Shupe does not think he’s acting alone.
“A 14-year-old in my opinion does not have the means to go off the grid, not be heard from and not be seen unless someone’s helping him,” Shupe said. “Someone knows where he is, and someone has helped him get there.”
Shupe agreed to return to the scene of the crime for an interview in hopes that renewed attention on the case drums up new leads.
He can recount every move the driver, the passenger and that truck made the night of the murders.
Police say Richard Acosta parked in front of the convenience store, walked in and bought something, then got back in his truck and backed out of the parking spot.
“Then it pulls over here and comes to a stop at the end of the parking lot here. They stay there for a couple of minutes,” Shupe said, pointing to the far side of the lot.
During those couple of minutes, Shupe believes the passenger was prepping.
“It appears to me that steps were taken, based up on the surveillance video we saw, that he concealed his identity,” Shupe said. “He put on a baseball cap, removed his shirt and put on a face mask.”
Surveillance video shows the shooter crouching down as he approached the front door of the convenience store with what police say is a 40-caliber pistol with an extended magazine.
Police say surveillance video also shows the shooter getting back in the white truck he’d been riding in, which police say Richard Acosta was driving.
But where the teen went from there is a mystery.
Abel’s father, Richard Acosta, is charged with capital murder.
His attorney said he did not know Abel had a gun with him the night he drove him to the Texaco.
His attorney also said Acosta does not know where his son is.
“I can tell you I get a tip one day he’s in Mexico. The same day we get tips he’s in Iowa and he’s in Mississippi. All three tips come in on the same day,” Shupe said.
A $10,000 reward is still being offered and anyone who contacts Garland Crime Stoppers at either 972-272-8477 (TIPS) or at www.garlandcrimestoppers.org can remain anonymous.
The 26-year veteran police officer knows the faces of 17-year-old Rafael Garcia, 16-year-old Ivan Noyala and 14-year-old Xavier Gonzalez, as well as their families, will never leave his mind.
That’s why a few questions linger, too.
“Did I make any mistakes? Did I miss something?” Shupe says he asks himself. “What else can I actually do to find him?”
He is infuriated, but he’s also motivated to one day pass the corner of Walnut and Glenbrook and think about this case as closed.