Dell Seton Medical Center went on lockdown Friday after perpetrators fled from police chase into hospital

Hope Unger, News Reporter

Dell Seton Medical Center went into lockdown last Friday after an individual in a vehicle discharged a firearm around 53rd Street and Airport Boulevard and then traveled south toward downtown Austin, ultimately fleeing into the hospital. 

After a group traveling in a Nissan Altima had a tense interaction with two people in a Ford Fiesta at a Shell gas station on 5740 North I-35 service road around 6 p.m., the individuals in the Altima began to follow the white Fiesta in their car at “a very close distance,” according to a warrant of arrest affidavit. 

Once the two cars were side by side at East 53rd ½ Street, both cars rolled down their windows. 

The participants exchanged words, which led the front passenger of the Altima to shoot six or seven times toward the Fiesta, according to one testimony in the affidavit. According to one of the suspects, the driver of the Fiesta also flashed a gang sign toward the Altima, which led to the shooting. 

An Austin Police Department officer and an air unit were in the area of the shooting and immediately began to follow the Altima as they drove away from the scene, according to the affidavit. The officer said the Altima ran through red lights going southbound and entered the access ramp onto South I-35 from Airport Boulevard. 

The affidavit said the chase lasted just over two minutes before the officer lost sight of the Altima on I-35. However, the air unit followed the Altima to the Frank Erwin Center where the occupants abandoned the car and went toward Dell Seton Medical Center. 

According to the affidavit, the officer from the chase stopped a bystander the air unit mistook for one of the suspects. The bystander told the officer that the three suspects went into Dell Seton Medical Center through the east entrance. 

The officer contacted hospital security officers to confirm the suspects were inside via security cameras, according to the affidavit. Soon after, the hospital initiated a lockdown protocol at 6:27 p.m., according to an APD public information officer.

According to the affidavit, officers on the scene found the three suspects hiding under a ground floor stairwell. 

UT-Austin alerted the UT community at 6:10 p.m. of an ongoing situation at the hospital, asking people to avoid the area. At 6:52 p.m., another alert was issued stating three suspects were in custody and APD was still investigating the situation. The lockdown was lifted by 7:24 p.m., according to an APD tweet.

The backseat passenger in the Altima told officers that the firearm was hidden at the stairwell between the third and fourth floor, according to the affidavit. The officers then located the gray firearm, which they identified as a Ruger 9mm EC9s.

The police identified the driver of the Altima as 20-year-old Mario Suaste who, along with a parole violation, was charged with two second-degree felonies of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and two third-degree felonies of evading arrest with a vehicle, according to the affidavit. The front passenger was identified as 17-year-old San Pi, who was charged with two second-degree felonies of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.