Attorney provides details in Waco defensive gun use

Don Petersen

We’re learning some additional information about a shooting at a Waco, Texas hotel earlier this month where an armed citizen was reported to have come to the aid of two women who were being attacked inside their room.


Bryan Cantrell, the attorney for that armed citizen identified as 44-year-old Army and Marine veteran Jason Nelson, says his client woke up to the sound of screams from the hallway around 3 a.m. on July 15th. Nelson and his wife were staying at the Hotel Indigo for a “parent’s night out”, and with four kids at home I’m sure he was looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep in addition to spending some quality time with his spouse. Instead, when he heard the commotion outside his room he went outside to see what was going on, and discovered a woman in the hallway who said she and two other women were being threatened by 31-year-old  Jared Searles.

Cantrell said Nelson then went to his room to retrieve a gun, and returned to the other room to confront Searles. Nelson twice tried to get Searles out of the room in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, he said. After the third time, Searles assaulted Nelson, Cantrell said.

He said Searles knocked Nelson back, picked him up by his neck and held him up against the wall. Searles also tried to take Nelson’s gun, prompting Nelson to fire a single shot that struck Searles, Cantrell said. Nelson then attempted to render aid to Searles, Cantrell said.

Waco police spokesperson Cierra Shipley said officers arrived at the hotel just after 3:15 a.m., where they found Searles and rendered aid before he was transported to a hospital, where he later died. Shipley said Nelson cooperated with officers during the investigation, and no arrest was made. She said one of the women in the room with Searles sustained minor injuries during the initial altercation.


According to the local D.A. the Waco police have not brought forward any charges, and Cantrell says his client was well within his rights to protect the women and himself when Searles attacked him.

“I don’t see where any grand jury would indict,” Cantrell said. “It was an absolute clear case of self-defense. This case was basically a self-defense law school exam.”

Cantrell said the situation was traumatic for Nelson, and said he was very upset over what happened.

“I don’t know anybody that ever, ever feels good being faced with a situation where you take somebody else’s life,” Cantrell said.

He also said Nelson became disabled as a result of his military service and now walks with a cane. Cantrell questioned why no one else on the floor intervened in the situation.

“A lot of people stuck their head out the door after it was over,” Cantrell said. “None of them had stepped out in the hall before that. It was loud enough to wake up half of Waco.”

It’s a simple fact that most people don’t want to get involved when they hear or see something alarming. Some may fear being harmed themselves while others may be concerned about potential criminal charges or a civil lawsuit if they try to defend someone in need of help, all of which are valid considerations that help to explain why those hotel doors remained closed while the woman was screaming for someone to come to their aid.


I don’t know if any of those thoughts went through Nelson’s mind when he walked into the hallway to see what was going on, but based on his attorney’s account it sounds like he believed he had a duty to help strangers in need and took steps to de-escalate the situation before he was attacked himself. I wish more folks felt that way, but when you see stories about people being charged or even evicted for acting in self-defense or defense of others, it’s at least somewhat understandable why so many people are reluctant to get involved even when lives are at risk.

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