When shots were fired at Sealy Police Officer Eric Bryant through the windshield of his patrol car, he had shards of glass in his eyes and didn’t know if he’d been hit by a bullet.
It wasn’t fear or anger that caused him to pursue the man who’d just tried to kill him, he said. It was simply what he’d been trained to do.
On Nov. 8, a jury of six men and six women sentenced 37-year-old Travis Bluntson to the maximum penalty for which he was eligible, 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, for attempted capital murder of a peace officer. A $10,000 fine also was included in the sentence following a four-day trial and less than 10 minutes of deliberation.
“Sometimes the minimum [sentence] is appropriate, but ladies and gentlemen, this is not one of those days,” said First Assistant District Attorney Brandy Robinson, who prosecuted the case with ADA Ben Nystrom. “There is no doubt that this officer is going to deal with the effects of this crime for the rest of his life.”
Bluntson was a convicted felon on drug charges who had been sentenced to prison in the past but when the offense is not “aggravated,” the inmate does not have to serve half of the sentence before he is eligible for parole. Even though Bluntson had been doing time in TDCJ, he could have been released in a few years. In this case he has to serve at least 30 years.
“It’s important to us because we know he’ll be on the street again,” said Police Chief Jay Reeves.
The defendant abruptly fired his attorneys and asked for the case to be appealed following the sentence.
“Mr. Bluntson, you have no business running about in a free society,” said District Judge Jeff Steinhauser.
Defense attorneys Calvin Garvie and Annie Scott tried to establish that even though Officer Bryant was handed Travis Bluntson’s driver license when he pulled over the vehicle on that night six years ago, it could have been someone else who had obtained Bluntson’s license and insurance information and cell phone number.
“The driver tried to shoot and kill me,” Bryant said. “That driver’s face is burned into my memory. Certain features can change but I’ll remember that face forever.”
The traffic stop occurred March 13, 2012. Bryant, the city’s K-9 officer, pulled Bluntson over for speeding and not using a turning signal near Rexville Road.
“He gives me his license and his insurance information and while I’m talking to him I can smell the odor of marijuana,” Bryant said in an interview with The Sealy News after the trial. “I tell him to go ahead and step out of the car. He’s looking around and that’s a red flag. I’m already suspicious. He looks at me and very slowly just puts it in gear.”
Bryant was traveling with K-9 Scout, who was unharmed in the incident. He told the man to stop, knowing that he might later be able to file “evading arrest” charges. Bryant immediately radioed for backup. Meanwhile, Bluntson made a U-turn and headed back toward the officer.
“Even now, I’m not thinking fight mode; I’m thinking chase mode,” Bryant said. “It’s a fatal mistake, and as embarrassing as it is to talk about it, I’ve swallowed my pride and I’ll talk about it, especially with the young ones that I train. It could help save their lives. You’re never in chase mode; you’re always in fight mode. Don’t ever make that mistake that I made.”
What happens next is difficult to comprehend for those who weren’t on the scene.
“I see him point the pistol and I see the muzzle flash,” Bryant said. “As soon as it happened, it hits the window right in front of my face … I duck and I hit the gas. I can feel the glass hit my face.”
Bryant can be heard on the dash cam video saying, “Shots fired, shots fired. I don’t know if I’ve been hit.”
“I’m feeling the cold breeze, I don’t know if it’s from the glass or what, but I’m thinking that I’m feeling blood on my face,” Bryant said.
Chief Reeves said the instinct in that situation is to get to the suspect before they black out or bleed out.
“Not all of us have that instinct,” Reeves said. “That’s how you find out the measure of a man. You pick up little things and it heightens your senses.”
Ultimately Bryant found Bluntson’s vacant car, wrecked in a ditch, and once backup arrived, he was removed from the scene for safety reasons – to render aid to his injuries and ensure that if Bluntson were to commit suicide that couldn’t be tied to the arresting officer
Bryant still gets a little choked up about the matter but he never wavered on whether he wanted to continue being a police officer.
“When I was in college I watched 9-11 happen,” he said. “I saw the footage of Rudy Guiliani. He’s extremely mellow. I watched those interviews. His father taught him that no matter what happens you have to be the most calm person in the room. That’s how you survive. I teach that to my stepdaughter. Panic sets in and you have to be able to control it and think reasonably.”
According to a press release from Austin County District Attorney Travis Koehn’s office, the trial was “delayed several times in the last six years, in part because the Austin County District Attorney’s Office had several serious felony cases with child victims that were tried first.”
“[Bryant] handled himself with the highest level of professionalism during a dangerous high-speed chase and did everything possible to keep the community safe,” Robinson said. “We’re grateful to have Officer Bryant and other officers like him continuing to serve in Austin County.”
There’s a lot more to this story. Stay tuned to sealynews.com.