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An illegal immigrant from El Salvador allegedly murdered one Texas officer and wounded another during an altercation Tuesday at an apartment complex in Houston.
The deceased victim, Sgt. Harold Preston, was a 41-year black police veteran who’d shown up at the complex around 8:00 am in response to a domestic disturbance call from a woman who was trying to move out of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment.
“Harold Preston had just bought a breakfast taco at a Whole Foods in south Houston on Tuesday when the call came in: Two officers at a domestic dispute on Holly Hall needed help,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
“The 65-year-old Houston Police sergeant headed their way. Preston, who joined the Houston Police Department in 1979, had handled countless domestic calls over his long career. But at 9:25 a.m., a 51-year-old man shot and killed Preston as he tried to escort the man’s estranged wife into the apartment to collect her things.”
Preston’s partner, Ofc. Courtney Waller, sustained a wound to the arm but made it out OK, reportedly thanks to the help of a good Samaritan:
The suspect, Elmer Rolando Manzano-Martinez, a 51-year-old illegal alien with a history of criminal behavior, was arrested soon after.
“Manzano has convictions dating back to the early 2000s in Texas. He was convicted on two misdemeanor assault charges lodged in 2000 in Dallas County, at least one of which was domestic violence-related,” according to the Chronicle.
“Probation on both of those charges was revoked in 2003. In 2002, Manzano plead guilty to a charge of felony evading arrest in Harris County.”
Manzano-Martinez also has a history of alleged domestic abuse.
“The shooting closely followed three domestic violence complaints involving Manzano, and Waller encountered the former couple during the complaints on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” the paper noted.
One of the complaints involved a “terroristic threat,” leading some members of Houston’s law enforcement community to wonder why he hadn’t been arrested.
“After the shooting, some in the law enforcement community had mentioned Manzano could have been charged with making a terroristic threat after one of the weekend calls,” local station KTRK noted.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat, dismissed concerns about his prior lack of arrest.
“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,” her office reportedly said.
The good news is that Manzano-Martinez has finally been charged with capital murder of a police officer, attempted capital murder of a police officer and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. He’s also been denied bail.
Sergeant Harold Lloyd Preston
Houston Police Department
Sworn Date: August 25th, 1979
End of Watch: October 20th, 2020
HPD Academy Class: 86
Years of Service: 41
Rest in Peace, brother. You will always be remembered and your sacrifice will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/kYNMmBioIN
— Houston Police Officers’ Union (@HPOUTX) October 20, 2020
The bad news is that there’s still no explanation for why he’d been allowed to roam free and was apparently never handed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Houston’s relationship with ICE has reportedly always been rocky.
“The Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 ended a program known as 287(g), which partnered with ICE to train a team of county deputies to determine the immigration status of jailed suspects and hold those selected for deportation,” the Chronicle notes.
“But since the implementation of Senate Bill 4 later that year, the sheriff’s office has allowed ICE space for their own agents to work in the jail. SB4 outlawed ‘sanctuary cities’ by mandating that local police work with federal immigration authorities and allowing them to ask about detainees’ immigration statuses.”
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who appeared at the 2020 Democrat National Convention and endorsed Democrat nominee Joe Biden, isn’t a fan of SB4.
“The problem is the perception problem that it creates, that local police officers are going to be more interested in immigration enforcement of people who don’t bother anybody,” he reportedly said in 2018.
However, he was and still remains a fan of Preston:
Those of us who knew, loved, & respected Sgt. Harold Preston knew him to be a wonderful, courageous, and humble servant, from an amazing family.
While many may never say his name, or honor his life of selfless service, we will never forget. RIP kind hero, we will celebrate you. pic.twitter.com/3U370XNsFc
— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) October 20, 2020
So does Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Our hearts are with the family of Houston Police Sgt. Harold Preston who was shot and killed in the line of duty this morning. This tragic loss is a grave reminder of the dangers our brave law enforcement officers face while keeping our communities safe,” the governor said in a statement following Preston’s death.
“Cecilia and I ask our fellow Texans to join us in lifting up Sgt. Preston’s family in prayer in their time of need. We also ask all Texans to pray for the speedy recovery of Houston Police Officer Courtney Waller who was shot while responding to the same incident and is recovering in the hospital. The state stands ready to assist the Houston Police Department in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this horrific tragedy.”
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