SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Police Department had skill and numbers on their side. William Carroll, however, had an edge.
Carroll knew the layout of the house the team of SWAT officers were getting ready to storm. Four officers became victims of a wild spray of his gunfire. For the first time, members of that mission spoke openly about the Wild Oak shootings.
"Everything that went on that day in the planning stages told us that this guy would likely react in the manner that he did," said SWAT Sgt. Mark Delgado.
Delgado was one of the leaders overseeing an 11-man team to get Carroll out of a house in the 4300 block of Wild Oak and secure him. SAPD's gang unit wanted SWAT to execute the warrant on Nov. 11, 2010.
The anxiety level, Delgado said, was high. They had expected an incident.
"The subject was seen with an SKS rifle," Delgado said. "He had been charged with murder twice and he was a confirmed gang member."
The threat assessment for the suspect and home dictated police battered their way inside. Officer David Larios was one of the first officers in the door. He recalled seeing a woman and a baby.
"The way we train ... we treat everyone in the house as they are all threats," he said. "Of course, she was scared. The baby was crying."
Upon breaching the home, they identified themselves as police. Subsequently, the threat level increased. Within seconds a hail of bullets came out of nowhere.
"The threat's there and you gotta deal with it," Larios said. "You can't just get up and go."
Carroll was firing at the SWAT team from a rear bedroom. He reportedly had a woman in the room with him. The other woman and child were still inside.
"There's an innocent woman in there with a child and they could have gotten hit because he was just shooting wildly," Det. Jesse Luna said.
Within seconds of the gunfire, four of San Antonio's SWAT members were hit. Officer Edwin Turner, who was pumped with adrenaline, had been grazed across the face. He said he didn't feel the gunfire.
"A half of an inch to the left and this would have been a different story," Turner said.
Officer Daniel Elborne was grazed on his arm with a bullet. Not far away, Officer John Diaz was struck in the stomach, cheek and shoulder.
"I was next to Officer Diaz when he went down," Elborne said. "We both hit the ground."
They remember him saying he'd been hit. For a close knit group that frequently jokes with each other, Diaz's voice said it all.
"You hear it in his voice and you're like, 'man that's my brother,'" Larios said. "We've gotta get him out of here."
The frames of danger intensified. Their leader, Lt. Jorge Suarez, was among the wounded. His injuries were critical.
"I saw bullets coming through the walls," Turner said. "All I remember is coming back out of the room ... I was seeing my lieutenant down."
They had to get the wounded policemen out of the home. The team maneuvered Suarez to a window. He was passed out to EMS.
"I'll be honest, when I saw the lieutenant's face when we were trying to get him out of the window to awaiting EMS, I thought the worst," Delgado said.
Diaz was taken out the back of the home for emergency treatment, too. Police still had not returned fire on Carroll even as their suspect ran out of ammunition. Inside the bullet riddled home, they ordered him to surrender. He complied, crawled out the rear room, and was arrested on four counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer.
Meanwhile, investigators processed the ravaged home. Police were extremely worried about Suarez.
"Man that was lucky shot," Delgado said. "It was one of the worst places to be hit."
One of the two places Suarez had been shot was above his tactical belt and right below his tactical vest. He and Diaz were in the hospital. The team's emotions were everywhere.
"I don't think I slept for 24 hours after that I was so mad," Turner said.
He said not so much at Carroll, but at the incident as a whole. Turner wondered if he could have done more. He resolved later that he could not.
They have since all returned to work. In fact, the next night SWAT was called out on another assignment.
"We're in the type of job where we can't just stop and take a few weeks off and go on vacation and spend a lot of time hugging each other," Elborne said. "You have to keep doing what we are trained to do."
Training demands they move on, reassess and improve. Even though they count the Wild Oak mission as a success, the team walked away with lessons learned from that encounter.
"It doesn't become real until you're in it," Turner said. "And I think it became real for us that day."
SWAT supports SAPD in high risk incidents including special operations, surveillance and even specialized traffic stops.
SWAT's worst days
The shooting death of John Anthony "Rocky" Riojas has been described by SWAT as one of their darkest hours. The 37-year-old was killed at the Stone Hollow apartments on Fredericksburg Road in February 2001.
He was an officer on the San Antonio SWAT team. On that night, Riojas was assigned to a special detail dealing with burglaries. The 11-year veteran had not been in touch with police dispatchers. Investigators believe he'd been involved in a lengthy chase with Manuel Garza.
Police said the two got into a struggle. The 20-year-old grabbed Riojas's gun and fatally wounded him in the head.
On a larger scale, the Battle of Flowers Parade mass shooting in April 1979 was possibly the most horrific tragedy in San Antonio's recent history. Four people, including the gunman, Ira Attaberry, were killed. More than 50 others were wounded. Five San Antonio police were among the wounded.
SWAT was called to the scene. However, the death and damage were already a reality.