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Armed man arrested in Texas thought he was 240 miles away

San Antonio Express News logo San Antonio Express News 1/1/2019 By Emilie Eaton and Ronnie Crocker, Staff writers

An armed, masked former Marine who was arrested Sunday in Seguin and told police he was on his way to church “to fulfill a prophecy” thought he was 240 miles away in Vidor at the time, authorities said.

Tony Dwayne Albert II, 33, of Houston, told investigators he was headed to the First Baptist Church in Vidor, on the outskirts of Beaumont, police revealed Monday.

Police are still trying to determine why Albert thought he was in Vidor and what ties he has there, if any. Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll said “we cannot connect him to Vidor” at this time.

“This guy has a long history of mental illness,” Carroll added.

When he was arrested in Seguin, Albert was carrying a 9 millimeter Smith & Wesson M&P pistol that had been stolen from a residence in Vidor, police said. It was unclear whether Albert committed the burglary or obtained the gun later, police said.

The drama surrounding Albert began shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday, when he was spotted carrying the pistol and wearing cargo pants, military-style boots and a green T-shirt near the intersection of West Kingsbury and West Court streets in Seguin. His gun was loaded, and he was carrying a magazine with extra ammunition, police said.

He also had on a white surgical mask with a white T-shirt wrapped around his head, Officer Tanya Brown, a spokeswoman for the Seguin Police Department, said Monday.

An unnamed citizen noticed Albert’s odd attire and called police. An off-duty officer who was on her way home from work heard the call on the radio and was the first to respond.

Albert was booked into the Guadalupe County Detention Center on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of marijuana. He is being held on a $100,000 bond, records show.

Brown said it’s unclear what Albert’s intentions were or what he meant by his statement about fulfilling a prophecy.

It’s easy to “jump to conclusions” in light of recent armed attacks on places of worship, Brown said.

On Oct. 27, a gunman killed 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nearly a year earlier, a former airman killed 26 people and wounded 20 during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, 30 miles southeast of San Antonio — the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.

“That’s where our minds immediately went,” Brown said.

On Sunday, Seguin police withheld from the news media the location of the church where Albert told them he was headed. They said they wanted to alert authorities in Vidor first.

Carroll said his department was notified about Albert’s comments around 4 p.m. Sunday and immediately alerted the First Baptist Church of Vidor. Services were over by then, he said.

The church’s pastor did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Albert has been arrested seven times, mostly in Houston, on various charges dating to 2009. He was convicted in five of those cases: for driving while intoxicated, possession of marijuana under 2 ounces, attempting to elude a police officer, attempting to disarm a police officer and, most recently, assault of a family member causing bodily injury.

In the assault case, Albert was arrested in March 2017 after he struck a woman with whom he was living. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Because he had a domestic violence conviction, Albert would be prohibited by federal law from owning, purchasing or possessing a firearm.

He is currently on probation for attempting to disarm a police officer. The case was handled in Harris County Veterans’ Court, a specialty court designed to increase access to mental health and addiction treatment for veterans.

As a condition of his probation, Albert entered a residential substance abuse treatment center in Humble for individuals with mental health issues and substance abuse history, court records show. He successfully completed the Dual Diagnosis Residential Program and was released, records show.

In December 2017, Albert was jailed for violating terms of his probation, apparently by using marijuana. In a court filing a month later, Albert sought to justify his marijuana use by tying it to “a stated religious conviction regarding the usage of cannabis.”

He wrote that he was associated with the First Church of Cannabis, a religious organization that contends marijuana is a healing plant.

“This affiliation is generally a very private and secretive one as the desire of we affiliates is to separate ourselves from recreational cannabis users who continue to pervert the usage of our sacrament,” Albert wrote.

Bill Levin, founder of the Indiana-based First Church of Cannabis, said he did not know Albert and did not believe him to be a dues-paying member of the organization.

In the court filing, Albert also said he was associated with Messianic Judaism, a modern religious movement that combines Christianity with elements of Judaism.

Athill Muhammad, a Houston lawyer who represented Albert in two of his criminal cases, described him as “a fine, upstanding man” who had been honorably discharged from the military.

Police are uncertain how Albert got to Seguin on Sunday. State motor vehicle records indicate that he owns a car, but police did not find one in Seguin.

The Texas Rangers, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Guadalupe County District Attorney’s Office are assisting with the investigation.

Staff Writers Keri Blakinger and Samantha Ketterer contributed to this report. | Emilie Eaton is a criminal justice reporter in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | eeaton@express-news.net | Twitter: @emilieeaton

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