Cop Shoots Man During Denny's Altercation

An off-duty cop eating at Denny's shot a man who threatened him with a knife during an altercation, Houston police say.

Officer J.C. Lopez, a six-year veteran, was with a group of family and friends when another group, including Clemente Vela, 32, got into an altercation with them, HPD says. Each group included a Marine recently back from Afghanistan.

The incident happened about 3 a.m. this morning in the 9800 block of Gulf Freeway. HPD's release pointedly notes that Vela's group entered the restaurant "after a night of drinking at a local strip club."

"Once inside the restaurant, a disturbance between Officer Lopez's group and Vela's group ensued," HPD says. "Officer Lopez, who was unarmed, feared the disturbance would escalate and went outside to call 9-1-1 from his cell phone inside his vehicle. As he called 9-1-1, Officer Lopez saw Vela, armed with a knife, approach his family and friends."

HPD says Lopez fired two shots in the air "in an attempt to stop Vela's aggressive actions."

And then: "Vela, with the knife in his hand, then turned toward Officer Lopez and confronted him in an aggressive manner. Fearing for his safety and that of his family members, Officer Lopez discharged his duty weapon several times, wounding Vela."

Vela was transported to a hospital, condition unknown; he faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The incident is being investigated by the HPD Homicide and Internal Affairs divisions as well as the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

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