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The original article stated that the police officer succumbed to his injuries but he actually survived the shooting.

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Tex. (KFOR) – Authorities from Texas and Oklahoma say the suspect in the 2003 shooting of a North Richland Hills, Texas police officer died shortly after being identified and before he could be arrested.

Officer Jeff Garner was shot on March 3, 2003, after attempting to stop a man who, unknown to Garner, had just robbed a bank in Watauga, Texas.

Since the incident, the suspect has remained at large.

After the case sat cold for many years, North Richland Hills Police Detective Erik Whitlock took over the case in 2015, and an evidence analysis led to the belief that the suspect in the shooting of Garner was linked to seven bank robberies across Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas from 1998 to 2003.

Security camera still of the 'Cowboy hat bandit' in Texas
Courtesy: North Richland Hills Police Department

North Richland Hills Police submitted DNA evidence to Parabon Nanolabs, Inc. to conduct further testing and analysis of the suspect profile.

An unknown male DNA profile was identified but never matched to a specific suspect.

A sketch was provided by Parabon and shared publicly, but no new leads were developed. As a result, the case went cold again.

Artist renderings of the 'cowboy hat bandit' in Texas
Courtesy: North Richland Hills Police Department

Later in 2019, Detective Whitlock submitted the DNA data to Identifinders International for a forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) examination.

In December 2021, Identifinders Intl. told investigators the source of the DNA was Mark Alan Long based on shared DNA matches identified on GEDmatch, a public DNA comparison platform.

“Identifinders is pleased to support the North Richland Hills Police Department and its partner agencies in the identification of Mr. Long. I am proud of our team for their persistence in solving this case,” said Colleen Fitzpatrick, President of Identifinders. “This is a great example of what a collaboration between law enforcement and forensic genetic genealogists can accomplish together. We look forward to working together again in the future.”

In February 2022, undercover detectives traveled to Oklahoma and began surveillance on Long.

During that time, they were able to obtain DNA from items Long used at a restaurant where he dined. Those items were submitted for forensic examination alongside previously collected DNA evidence in three of the bank robberies.

The DNA obtained from Long matched the DNA collected from those three bank robberies.

In early April 2022, search warrants were obtained by the OSBI for Long’s home, vehicle, and a previously-owned Jeep believed to have been used in the Watauga, TX bank robbery.

The search led to a revolver that closely matched the description of the weapon used during the shooting of Officer Garner being located in Long’s house.

The revolver was sent for ballistics processing and returned as a match with evidence collected from Garner’s shooting – the projectiles located at the crime scene matched what was fired from the revolver.

Once the suspect’s Jeep was located, it was examined and found to have body filler repair on the tailgate. The damage was consistent with that of a bullet hole from return fire delivered by Officer Garner.

Officials say given the overwhelming evidence presented, four arrest warrants were secured for Mark Long.

However, as detectives closed in on Long to serve the warrants, they learned that he had been found dead near a cell tower in southeast Oklahoma City.

Authorities say that while the evidence from the death investigation leads detectives to believe Long took his life, the final ruling on his cause of death will be released by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner.

“This case is an outstanding example of authentic dedication to seeking justice. Detective Whitlock worked tirelessly and passionately to put together all the pieces of this case and bring a resolution for Captain Jeff Garner,” shares North Richland Hills Police Chief, Jimmy Perdue. “Whitlock spent countless hours and many years working on what seemed like an impossible case to solve. He developed strong partnerships with members of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These working relationships built a robust and solid case against Mr. Long. We are lucky to have Detective Whitlock helping to protect our community.”

Long was to be charged with Attempted Capital Murder of a Peace Officer, Aggravated Robbery, and two counts of Robbery with a total bond of $675,000.