AUSTIN, Texas — Larry Steven McQuilliams, the shooter who opened fire on several downtown Austin buildings Friday morning, had moved to Austin a year and a half ago looking for a fresh start that he failed to find, one of his neighbors said.
McQuilliams had lived up north — court records and his Facebook page say Wichita, Kan. — but left because he felt his contributions were not appreciated by his employer there, said Katie Matlack, who lived four doors down from McQuilliams in a small apartment complex near Barton Springs.
“He was a very kind person. Everyone in the building knew him,” Matlack said. “I think he was just frustrated at every turn.”
He did not strike everyone that way, however.
“I’m not surprised at all” in McQuilliams’ involvement in the shooting, said Charles Witt, who lives in a nearby condominium complex. “When I heard the SWAT team was next door I said ‘Wow, I bet this is the bicycle guy.’ ”
McQuilliams, 49, was a Renaissance Fair enthusiast and martial artist, Matlack said. He took care of neighbors’ pets when they were away. Matlack said she saw him every couple of days while walking her dog. McQuilliams loved “Barking Springs,” the spillway end of Barton Springs where many owners take their dogs to roam off leash, and where many of Austin’s free spirits go to hang out. He would help clean up the hike-and-bike trail when heavy rains washed through it. He felt at home in drum circles.
He was also cynical about government, according to Matlack and to McWilliams’ Facebook page. He was incarcerated in Texarkana, and his time behind bars — police have not released details of it, and online records are incomplete — meant a series of failed background checks that led, in the end, to a nearby car wash being the only place that would hire him, Matlack said. She said she thinks he lived off savings he brought with him. The frustration seemed to wear on him, Matlack said, though he did not strike her as significantly unbalanced, or willing to shoot off more than 100 rounds downtown. She had not seen firearms in his apartment, only a few of the medieval weapons that seemed consistent with a RenFair buff.
“We were all comfortable with him, but we could sense that he was unhappy,” Matlack said. “We all knew him as a gentle soul trying to find his place in something.”
He did give off subtle signs that seem ominous in hindsight, she said. He had two cats, one indoor and one outdoor, and he had begun putting the indoor cat outside, as if to prepare for life outside the apartment. He started letting a neighbor use his exercise equipment.
Witt, who lives in the nearby condo complex, said McQuilliams would cut through his property on his bike to get home.
“He didn’t make eye contact,” Witt said. “Seemed kind of angry. He didn’t say hello and didn’t appear at all interest at all in knowing who his neighbors were.”
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