Deputy ambushed, killed at gas station; no one in custody
HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities are still pursuing a suspect in the death of a uniformed sheriff's deputy who was shot several times while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station, they said Saturday afternoon during a strongly worded news conference.
Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said that surveillance video shows there were people at the gas station and asked that they reach out with any information that could lead to the man who ambushed Goforth.
Hickman and District Attorney Devon Anderson both said the ambush was unsettling, especially given the recent climate of tension between civilians and law enforcement.
"We've heard black lives matter, all lives matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too," Hickman said.
Anderson said that there are bad individuals in every field, but that "there should not be open warfare on law enforcement officers."
Earlier Saturday, Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials were questioning a person of interest and had a search warrant for a two-story brick home. Hickman said authorities were looking at a pickup truck at the house, which is about a quarter-mile from the gas station, due to the description of the suspect driving a red or maroon truck with an extended cab.
Police have described the suspect as a male with a dark complexion, about 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts. Authorities did not say what race they believe him to be.
Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children, Hickman said. As for a motive, Hickman said that until anything is known with "certainty ... it's all speculation."
An impromptu memorial sprouted at the Chevron gas station pump that Goforth used Friday night, with a pile of balloons, flowers, candles and notes, including one that said, "Gone but never forgotten R.I.P. Deputy Goforth." The gas station in Copperfield, a middle-class to upper middle-class area of Harris County that is unincorporated, was open, but that pump was closed.
Brian McCullar knew Goforth because the deputy had patrolled his neighborhood, which is about two miles from the gas station, and spoke often.
"He was passionate about what he did," the 49-year-old said, adding, "We're still in shock. ... It's a huge loss for his family. It's a huge loss for this area.
"You're talking about a guy that made a difference."
Goforth had traveled to the Chevron station after responding to a routine car accident, Gilliland said.
"He was pumping gas into his vehicle and the male suspect came up behind him and shot the deputy multiple times," Gilliland told the Houston Chronicle. "The deputy fell to ground. The suspect came over and shot the deputy again multiple times as he lay on the ground."
Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues.
The search includes Harris County Sheriff's deputies and homicide investigators and officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department, in the search.
"This is a very tough moment right now for the Harris County Sheriff's Office," Gilliland said. "Keep us in your prayers and in your thoughts."
Bob Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, said the incident was "shocking."
"We've been warned of things like this, because of public sentiment nationally and events over the last few years ... It's just horrific. That's the only way to describe it."
Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday that said "heinous and deliberate crimes against law enforcement will not be tolerated" and that the state "reveres the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities."