Dabrett Black, the suspected killer of a DPS trooper, spent several years in the U.S. Army including deployments in Iraq, according to three individuals who say they served with him. Black’s formers peers told Fox 4 that he was funny, and a good leader, until a sudden shift marked by a high-profile breakdown.
Law enforcement officials arrested Black in Waller County late Thursday after an hours-long manhunt. The Texas Department of Public Safety said he fatally shot Trooper Damon Allen during a traffic stop Thursday afternoon along I-45 in Freestone County.
Matthew Chappell was stunned to see Black’s face in a news article Friday. “I was taken aback by it,” he said.
Chappell said around 2010 and 2011 the two were both deployed to Al-Asad in Iraq. The two didn’t work alongside each other but hung out on base.
“He was funny, he would get you motivated, he had a lot of energy, good leader all around,” said Chappell. “All around good soldier.”
Jessica Vinson was with Black while in on base at Fort Stewart, Ga. and later deployed with him to Iraq. The two were part of the same platoon.
“He was a nice guy, the platoon clown, he was always cracking jokes and being funny,” Vinson said.
Both Vinson and Chappell said that Black was battling some personal issues. Vinson said there was a sudden shift in behavior marked by an unusual incident.
“While we were in formation one day, he just went off and he went off on everybody and just started calling everybody and telling people 'I've been asking for help for a really long time, and you guys just want to look the other way and push me aside, so what I'm I going to do I can only be pushed so far until I crack.’”
A U.S. Army spokesperson could not immediately verify Black’s military record Friday. A spokesperson did not return an email seeking information on whether Black received treatment for any issues.
Neither Vinson or Chappell stayed in close touch with Black following his departure from the military.
Black was charged in July with evading arrest, reckless driving and aggravated assault against a public servant following a police chase in Smith County.
Both Vinson and Chappell expressed concerns over how Black’s mental health was handled.
“This is a man who cried out for help, who begged and pleaded for somebody to listen to him and help him,” Vinson said.
On Friday, Black was transferred from the Brazos County Jail to the Limestone County Jail.
A judge declined to hold a bond hearing Friday. Jail officials say he will likely be transferred to Freestone County, where the capital murder charge originated.
A funeral for Trooper Allen will be held December 1, at the Mexia High School Football Stadium where he grew up.
He leaves behind a wife and 4 children.