Family of Driver Killed in Crash With Former HPD Officer Sues Cop, Strip Club

Former Houston police officer James Combs
Former Houston police officer James Combs
Courtesy Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office

The family of a driver killed by an off-duty Houston police officer — who prosecutors say was driving drunk — has sued the officer and a South Houston strip club they allege the officer was on his way home from.

The parents of Brian Manring, a 36-year-old single father, argue in court documents that James Combs is responsible for their son's death and that Show Palace, the strip club, served Combs alcohol when he was already drunk. The Manrings are seeking damages, but did not disclose a sum in their court filing.

Around 6:30 a.m. on August 12, Combs swerved into oncoming traffic near Beechnut and Westmoor and smashed his SUV into the Corvette driven by Manring, killing him, the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies said Combs refused to take a field sobriety test at the scene. Police later drew blood from Combs at the hospital and determined he had a blood alcohol content of 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.

In the lawsuit, Manring's parents claim employees at Show Palace continued to serve Combs alcohol when he "was intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others." The crash that killed Manring, his family asserts, was the result of "Show Palace's indifference to human life in over-serving James Combs and allowing him to drive away drunk."

Randy Sorrels, the family's attorney, said in a statement that Manring has an eight-year-old daughter. Show Palace did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In addition to the civil suit brought by the Manring family, Combs faces a charge of intoxication manslaughter in Fort Bend County criminal court.

Combs, a six-year veteran, has been relieved of duty since the accident, Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties said. Interim Chief Martha Montalvo told reporters on August 18 she intends to fire Combs. 

"We are doing what we can do to terminate him, as quickly as possible," Montalvo said. "With a charge like intoxication manslaughter, the least of his worries is worrying about his job."

Montalvo said Combs had failed a drug test several years ago and was fired, but succeeded in getting his job back on appeal.

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