On Wednesday afternoon, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo gave an update on the fatal shooting of Houston Police Department Sgt. Harold Preston, a 41-year department veteran just days away from retirement, who was killed while responding to a domestic violence call on Tuesday.
“He was about two weeks away from finally retiring, and bought himself a motorcycle to actually enjoy retirement,” Acevedo said. “As people of faith, we believe that he’s riding that motorcycle now in heaven on the wings of angels.”
The suspect, Elmer Manzano, was charged with capital murder of a police officer on Wednesday by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who said her office will be seeking the death penalty. Manzano was also charged with aggravated assault with bodily injury and attempted capital murder of a police officer, as Manzano’s 14-year-old son and Officer Courtney Waller were also shot and injured during Tuesday’s confrontation.
Acevedo said that Waller and Manzano’s son remain in stable condition, although Waller will likely need to undergo additional surgeries in the days ahead. Manzano is currently being held in police custody at Ben Taub while recovering from a gunshot wound fired by Preston, and is also in stable condition.
On Tuesday morning, Waller and another unnamed HPD officer responded to a call from Manzano’s wife, who “requested officers’ assistance regarding a disturbance with her husband” at the Richmond Manor apartment complex near NRG Stadium, Acevedo said. Waller and the other officer then requested assistance from a supervisor, which is how Preston came to be on the scene.
Acevedo explained that Manzano was preventing his wife and son from entering the apartment. Manzano’s son then used a key to open the door.
“Manzano was standing on the other side of the door with a semi-automatic pistol in his hand, pointed towards the son and Officer Waller… the son immediately said ‘He’s got a gun,’ and Officer Waller immediately started trying to back up, tried to grab his pistol, and the suspect immediately opened fire,” Acevedo said, shooting his son and Waller in the arm and Preston multiple times in the head.
Manzano eventually surrendered to the HPD SWAT team that responded. Manzano’s son was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital while Waller and Preston were transported to Memorial Hermann, where Preston passed away surrounded by family.
Acevedo said that Manzano is an undocumented El Salvadoran immigrant, and that his wife is undocumented as well.
“I want her to know and all victims of domestic violence to know that this department is here for you… and it doesn’t matter whether you’re documented or undocumented, because our investigation is revealing that this family was held hostage by this man in part because of the mom’s immigration status,” Acevedo said.
Wednesday evening, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick announced that Manzano has also been charged with both being "a felon in possession of a firearm" and as "an alien in possession of a firearm."
On Sunday and Monday, HPD received domestic violence complaints about Manzano, all of which Waller responded to. Manzano is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty to evading arrest in Harris County back in 2002. He was also found guilty of misdemeanor assault in 2000 in Dallas County.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Ogg’s opponent in her ongoing re-election race, Houston Police Officers’ Union lawyer Mary Nan Huffman, said that Ogg’s decision not to take charges against Manzano during the incident on Sunday made Preston’s killing possible.
“While Mr. Manzano pulled the trigger, Kim Ogg put the gun in his hands. Her actions are directly responsible for the death of HPD Sergeant Preston,” Huffman said.
In a statement, Ogg’s spokesperson Dane Schiller accused Huffman of using the tragedy for political gain. “The only person responsible for this horrible crime is the killer himself and any attempt to blame prosecutors is sadly political and not factual; the record speaks for itself; the officers in these cases didn’t believe that a crime had occurred and that left no evidence on which to base any charges,” the statement read.
“Based on what I’ve seen so far in our review, we did our best to deal with what we knew at the time, and so did the DA’s office,” Acevedo said. “The DA’s office is ultimately the one that takes [and] accepts charges, and we didn’t have enough for them to accept charges.”
“There’s plenty of time for all that other nonsense,” Acevedo continued, seemingly referring to Huffman’s allegation. “We’re not interested in that.”
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