DALLAS — Hours before a sniper shot him during a standoff with police, James Boulware was helping out at his father’s house, mowing the lawn and promising to come back again soon.
Now Jim Boulware sobs as he sits in his home, knowing his son will never return. The federal agents who brought bomb-sniffing dogs as they searched for evidence are gone. So is the armored van his son bought on eBay. And for the father of the man whose son died after unleashing a hale of bullets at police headquarters Saturday, a devastating reality is beginning to sink in.
“Everyone of us has a breaking point. … He hit his,” Jim Boulware told CNN.
Boulware says his son was boiling with anger over a custody battle and blamed police for taking his son away.
“I tried to tell him the police didn’t do it,” he said. “The police were doing their job to enforce the laws.”
When his son stopped by recently, Boulware says he saw a strange-looking van out back. His son told him he’d bought the armored van on eBay and picked it up in Georgia this month so he could have somewhere to sleep.
“He said, ‘Dad, I have lost my house, my tools, my son, I’m going through every dime I’ve got, I can’t find a job because I got domestic violence on my record.’ He said, ‘I’ve lost everything.'”
‘This suspect meant to kill officers’
Police say the gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire on Dallas police headquarters and planted explosives outside the building early Saturday before leading officers on a chase that ended at a restaurant parking lot.
Authorities confronted the man outside the Jack in the Box restaurant in the suburb of Hutchins.
Before he was shot, police say the suspect ranted to 911 dispatchers by phone, identifying himself as James Boulware and saying that police were responsible for taking his child away.
Police called him back, eventually allowing SWAT officers to negotiate.
But the man opened the door of his van, shot at police again and grew increasingly hostile and agitated when called on the phone.
After he made more threats, police snipers shot him through the windshield.
Officials have placed 14 police officers involved in the standoff on administrative leave while authorities continue their investigation into what happened, police said Sunday.
The suspect had told police that the van contained explosives, prompting them to call a bomb squad to inspect it.
“We believe this suspect meant to kill officers,” Police Chief David Brown said. “We barely survived the intentions of this suspect.”
Mom: ‘I kept hoping he would straighten himself up’
Now the van is a burned-out shell after investigators detonated the explosives that had been planted inside.
And details of the shooter’s troubled past are emerging.
Authorities say James Boulware had a record of domestic violence and custody issues. He also had a long history of mental illness, and his family struggled to handle it, according to his mother.
She said she’d considered having him committed, but worried that might drive him over the edge rather than helping.
“I really kept hoping he would straighten himself up,” Jeannine Hammond told CNN. “But he couldn’t. He really couldn’t.”
In April, Hammond won custody of her grandson from her son. During the trial, she said, her son was delusional, ranting in court and telling the jury he knew where Osama bin Laden had been hiding before U.S. forces killed the al Qaeda leader. It’s something he’d done before, she said, claiming to loved ones that he knew about news events before they happened.
In the past, his mother said, he’d talked about wanting to shoot up a school, but not hit any students, so that officials would learn they needed armed guards to protect children.
“We all said no. And he really did not like that we did not agree with him on that,” she said. “And that was the first indication I had that he … might be going down the route he went down (Saturday).”
Still, Hammond said, she expected that if her son turned violent, she would have been the target.
“I would have thought that I would have been the one that he singled out, since I got custody of his child,” she said.
A Dallas County judge told CNN she had extra security put in place after hearing the custody case.
“He was always a threat to us,” family court Judge Kim Cooks said. “We just didn’t know what he would do or when he would do it or what was going to happen. … He would look at you as if he wanted to kill you.”
Father: Custody battle devastated son
Jim Boulware says police had a right to respond the way they did, but that’s only part of his son’s story.
“He pulled a stupid act. But what led up to that?” he said. “You don’t know what it’s like to lose custody of your son. He loved that boy.”
It’s a feeling Jim Boulware is starting to experience, too.
“Now,” he says as he blinks back tears, “I lost a son.”