McKINNEY, Texas - McKinney police officers killed a man during a shootout outside an apartment complex Wednesday night.
Officers responded to the Cliffs on Eldorado near Highway 75 around 8:15 p.m. after getting a call about a man holding a woman and child against their will in a van. A restaurant customer first tipped off police about that woman and child in danger.
Police said the officers tried to take 35-year-old Joseph Khammash into custody and ended up struggling with him. He pulled out a gun and started shooting, so the officers returned fire and shot him several times.
“Officers attempted to take a male suspect into custody. A struggle ensued and that suspect produced a handgun and shot at officers. Officers returned fire striking the suspect several times,” said Sabrina Boston, a spokeswoman for the McKinney Police Department.
Khammash died at the scene. No one else was hurt.
Neighbors told FOX 4 Khammash was a combat veteran who served two tours in the Middle East. They said he often argued with his ex-wife about the custody of their daughter.
“She was coming over here to drop off their little baby girl, their daughter, or pick her up all the time. And it was happening a lot. Every time it would happen they would get in a huge argument like yelling and screaming at each other,” said Alec Navarette, who lives directly above.
Former co-workers at a nearby gas station also said they witnessed a similar argument last month. The child was also present for that fight.
Khammash was arrested in May on a complaint of criminal trespassing and had a history of threatening his ex-wife, according to documents filed in the Collin County courthouse.
Just down the street from the shooting scene, Gil Felan was working at a Wendy's. He says a customer reported signs of trouble in the parking lot Wednesday evening, not long before the shooting.
“Some man had pulled a lady back into her car right here in front of the Wendy's,” he said.
The customer saw the van come around to the drive-through, where Felan asked a woman and another girl inside if they were OK.
“The little girl was in the passenger side and the mother was driving,” said Felan. “I said, ‘Are y’all OK? There's customers in here that are concerned.’ And they nodded their heads kind of meekly, saying, ‘Yes, we're fine.’”
He doesn't remember what they ordered, but through the van's tinted windows, he could make out a man in the back seat.
Felan wrote down the license plate number and gave it to the customer inside, who called police.
“Was she scared at the time?” FOX 4’s Diana Zoga asked Christine Qualls, the attorney for the ex-wife.
“Yes,” said Qualls.
“She told you that?” said Zoga.
“Yes…she had been scared for several months,” said Qualls. “My client is extremely grateful today. This could have gone so many bad ways.”
The woman's divorce from Khammash was finalized in February, but the ex-wife went back to court for a protective order and a modification to a custody agreement that would only allow supervised visits between Khammash and their 4-year-old daughter.
The woman told the court that Khammash put tracking software on her cell phone.
She said Khammash showed her a gun in a Facetime conversation and told her by text, "Let me put it to u this way, with that money I got, I'm literally on my way to academy and intend on stocking up to prepare for battle.”
His ex-wife also said he threatened to "go down with a bang" before going to jail.
A judge signed the protective order on Sept. 9.
“This was something she dreaded may occur, which is why she sought the protective order but…had hoped it would not happen,” said Qualls.
Qualls says Khammash violated the terms Wednesday night by showing up at his ex-wife’s home and demanding they spend time together.
That brought them to the Wendy’s not far from Khammash's apartment. At that apartment, McKinney police found the van and tried to arrest Khammash before the shooting.
“It gives me goosebumps because I didn't know what was happening, but I'm glad...it's kind of like a melancholy,” said Felan. “Someone died in the incident, but someone else was saved.”
The Texas Rangers will investigate the officer-involved shooting.