Today, Justin Szalla, 20, of Springfield, Mo., pled guilty to two counts of Attempted Capital Murder of two Hansford County deputies. Following the guilty pleas, 84th District Judge, William D. Smith, sentenced Szalla to serve 40 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.
On October 2, 2013, a Hansford County deputy provided assistance to a vehicle stopped on a rural state highway in Hansford County. Szalla, then 19 years old, and a 16 year old juvenile were in the vehicle. After checking the vehicle's registration, the deputy discovered the car was stolen out of Springfield, Mo.
The Deputy handcuffed Szalla and the juvenile and placed them in the back of his Sheriff's pickup.
A second Hansford County deputy arrived and both deputies began searching the stolen vehicle.
While in the back of the Sheriff's pickup, Szalla retrieved the deputy's rifle from the vehicle and began firing at the two deputies who took cover in front of the stolen car. Approximately 20 rounds were fired between Szalla and the two deputies. Szalla eventually got out of the Sheriff's pickup and took cover behind it.
The rifle Szalla used jammed and he threw it into a ditch and ran down the highway where a third responding deputy saw him and placed him into custody. The juvenile was not involved in the shooting. Fortunately, no one was shot during the incident; however, one deputy did receive some minor injuries from flying debris.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, Szalla has waived his right to a trial by jury and he further waived his right of appeal and the sentence will begin immediately.
84th District Attorney Mark W. Snider prosecuted the case for the state and Szalla was represented by Borger attorney Curtis Hinshaw.
Both deputies were present for today's plea and Snider thanked both officers for their dedication and their exemplary actions during this incident as well as the Texas Rangers for their detailed investigation. Snider said he is very pleased with the outcome of this case.