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2013-03-07

Assault victim dies, upgraded charges likely

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A charge of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury was recently upgraded to murder when the victim of the assault died recently at a hospital in San Antonio.
Paul Hale Jr. was seriously injured in a fight that occurred with another man the night of Jan. 20, according to Chief Deputy Matt King of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office. Hale expired after being taken off life support at University Hospital on Sunday, March 3. He had been hospitalized since the attack.
Initial investigations of the incident had been thwarted because of deliberate misinformation. Due to a misleading initial report, officers with the City of Bandera Marshal's Office began the investigation, but later turned it over to BCSO deputies when the true facts were revealed.
A 9-1-1 call about the altercation initially reported the location of the fight as occurring at a popular watering hole in the 400 block of Main Street, which is in the city. However, law enforcement officers later learned the offense had actually taken place at a residence in the 300 block of San Antonio Street, which is under the purview of county law enforcement officers. According to a report, the victim's mother believed the misinformation was perpetrated to protect the suspect, John Harrison.
Apparently, Hale and Harrison, along with others, had been drinking heavily at a bar before going to the residence on San Antonio where the assault occurred. King described both men as "highly intoxicated at the time of the assault."
Two people, one of whom was a relative of the victim, witnessed the physical altercation, but apparently chose not to interfere. The identity of the 9-1-1 caller was not revealed.
Arriving on the scene, BCSO deputies found Hale bleeding heavily from the nose. Additionally, as a responding deputy noted in his report, Hale may have suffered a concussion because a pupil in one eye appeared to be substantially larger than the other. Despite his obvious injuries, Hale refused treatment by EMS healthcare providers and transport to a hospital.
At the time of the assault, a warrant was issued for Harrison's arrest for aggravated assault with serious bodily injury.
On Jan. 21 or 22, Hale was apparently transported to University Hospital by private vehicle where he remained until his death.
During the extended hospitalization, Hale's mother regularly updated BCSO administrators on her son's condition. Hospital officials had purportedly characterized Hale's chances as "dim for survival."
King said that although the BCSO had obtained a subpoena for Hale's medical records, hospital administrators noted that they could not be released while the patient was alive. "Patients who are still living must give consent to have their medical records released and the victim was unable to sign the release form," King said.
Although an autopsy has been completed, the report will not be issued for another 10 to 12 weeks, King revealed. "The results will indicate whether Mr. Hale expired from results of the beating or because of underlying medical conditions," he added.
According to King, Harrison's initial charge would likely be upgraded to murder or manslaughter, depending on the findings of the medical examiner. "The DA will likely ask for an amended indictment based on what the evidence supports. It would then go before the grand jury," King said.
Law enforcement authorities arrested Harrison on Monday, Feb. 4, in San Antonio and King expected him to be returned to Bandera County in short order. However, even that hit a snag. "It appears the suspect was also wanted in Bexar County on an unrelated warrant, so depending on the outcome of that, it could be some time before he's returned to Bandera," King explained. "Regardless, he'll remain in custody."
In addition, King indicated the department is investigating whether to charge other people who were peripheral to the fatal assault.