A Bellaire police officer died in a motorcycle crash Tuesday afternoon while chasing two suspects accused of shoplifting from a Target in Meyerland Plaza.
Officer Anthony Zarate, a seven-year veteran of the Bellaire Police Department, was flagged down in the Target parking lot by loss-prevention employees who had been chasing two men through the store after seeing them steal several items. Just as the men were getting into their car, Zarate pulled up behind them on his motorcycle. And when Zarate approached the pair on foot, they immediately took off, according to police.
Zarate hopped on his motorcycle and chased them along narrow streets in a nearby Meyerland residential neighborhood. He was on the 8500 block of Ferris Street when he lost control of his vehicle, crashing into a landscaping trailer parked on the street, police said. Paramedics arrived quickly after one of the landscapers called 911, but 52-year-old Zarate was unconscious when they arrived. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Bellaire Police Chief Byron Holloway said at a news conference that Zarate was married with three kids, a 25-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twins, and was awarded Officer of the Year in 2010.
He stressed that this tragic event had nothing to do with what is happening in the country between police and protestors currently.
"We keep getting national media inquiries about if this is tied to something greater. Well, yes, it's tied to something greater — but it's not tied to what's going on in our nation right now," Holloway said. "This was a police officer doing his job for the community that he loved. And he lost his life in the line of duty just like American police officers do every two to three days in this country. Not a week goes by that somewhere in this nation, two to three police officers don't die doing their duty. That is the story."
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The Harris County District Attorney's Office has released a photo of a person of interest, taken by Zarate's body camera as he approached the suspected robbers' car. Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers, which retweeted the below photo, at 713-222-TIPS.
UPDATE July 13, 4:35 p.m.: The person of interest, 27-year-old Dante Moore, turned himself into police Wednesday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle reported. Moore was escorted by New Black Panther Party leader Quannell X, who reportedly convinced Moore to turn himself in. He had his hands in the air because police were "on edge," Quannell X told reporters.
UPDATE July 14, 10:55 a.m.: Moore is charged with murder in the 339th State District Court for his role in Zarate's death, Houston police announced Thursday morning. Police said Moore admitted to being the driver of the vehicle that eluded Zarate.