After Deputy's Murder, Sheriff Hickman Blames "Dangerous National Rhetoric" Surrounding Police Violence

On Friday at around 8:20 p.m., a Harris County sheriff's deputy was shot and killed while pumping gas at a Chevron station. And in reaction to the tragedy, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said that the only apparent motive behind the slaying is that the deputy, Darren Goforth, was wearing his badge.

The suspect in the shooting, identified Saturday as Shannon J. Miles, didn’t appear to have any confrontation or interaction with Goforth prior to the shooting, Hickman said. Goforth was walking out of the convenience store back to his cruiser when Miles allegedly shot him in the back multiple times. He fled the gas station, located at Telge and West, in a red pick-up truck, which police later recovered at his home about a mile away. Miles was brought in for questioning Saturday morning and charged with capital murder by late afternoon.

“It’s unfortunate—there’s not many occupations you can point to where you can be shot for the clothes you wear,” Hickman said in a press conference.

Hickman addressed what he called the “dangerous national rhetoric” that has driven the rising tension between police and the public, following the deaths of unarmed citizens such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner and most recently Sandra Bland, all of which have increased public scrutiny of the officers. Hickman said that with an unprovoked, "senseless" murder like Goforth's, officers will watch their backs more closely—but that there's no way to protect against an act like this one. “Our system of justice absolutely requires law enforcement to protect our community," Hickman said. "But when the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, cold-blooded assassinations of police officers happen, this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”

Goforth became the twenty-third officer to be killed by gunfire this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks line-of-duty deaths. Last week, two Louisiana officers were gunned down while on the job, two days apart. One was shot with his own firearm after responding to a domestic call. The other was shot while checking on a vehicle stuck in a ditch.

“It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said. “There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean that there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”

Forty-seven-year-old Goforth had been an officer for ten years. Hundreds gathered this weekend at the Chevron station and pump 8, where Goforth was killed, to leave flowers and pay respects at a vigil. He left behind a wife and two children, a 12-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, the Houston Chronicle reports.

To close his statement at Saturday’s press conference, Hickman asked that people drop the qualifiers in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to leave it at "lives matter."

“We’ve heard black lives matter, all lives matter,” he said. “Cops’ lives matter too.”
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn