Photocopied signs cover Central Austin, warning residents of a killer on the loose and, as police follow up on tips to find Esme Barrera’s murderer, one man is doing what he can to arm a vulnerable community.
James Shaw sells self defense products on his website ResistAttack.com. On Sunday, he and his wife ventured to Waterloo Records in Downtown Austin, the former workplace of Barrera, and handed out free canisters of pepper spray.
It’s something that he’s done for months now. The idea to arm young women first sparked in Shaw’s mind when his 17-year-old daughter first started making college visits.
"We're just trying to spread the mission as far as we can," Shaw said. "We want to try to give every woman in America pepper spray."
Since August 1, he says he’s handed out more than 800 free canisters of pepper spray. This week, he’s been hitting the streets in Central Austin, making sure everyone in the Heritage Neighborhood, where Barrera lived and was killed, has protection.
"It is generally a safe town but when things like this happen people really start to focus, 'Should I be walking on my own at dark?’,” Shaw said. “People really need to be walking together and staying with their friends."
Barrera former supervisor, Martin Coulter, said that he hopes people don’t lose sight of Barrera's magnetic personality.
"I just hope people remember her as the sweetheart she really was and keep her memory alive," Coulter, Manager at Waterloo Records, said. "Time is the healer on this one."
Two other women were attacked in the same area on the night of Barrera’s killing. Anyone who met with Barerra on the night of her death or who could have any information is strongly urged to contact police at (512) 477-3588.