When Houston police arrested Jeffrey Demond Williams for gunning down a plainclothes officer working an auto theft assignment, the slain officer's handcuffs dangled from one of Williams' wrists.
Witnesses said they saw the officer, 39-year-old Troy Blando, start to cuff Williams, who then began struggling, grabbed a gun under his clothing with his free hand and shot the 19-year police veteran before running off on foot.
Williams, 37, was set for lethal injection Wednesday evening. He'd be the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year.
Officers found Williams a block from where he shot Blando on May 19, 1999. Besides the handcuff, he still was carrying the 9 mm pistol determined to be the weapon used to fatally shoot Blando in the chest.
Attorneys for Williams appealed Tuesday to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution, after lower courts refused to do so. They contend that he received poor legal help in earlier appeals, and that those lawyers should have argued that his trial lawyers had failed him. The trial lawyers should have provided jurors with more than superficial mitigating evidence of Williams' mental impairment to show he did not deserve a death sentence, they said.
"There is a reasonable probability, but for trial counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different," attorney Jonathan Sheldon told the high court.
State attorneys have said Williams' appeals were strategically filed with his execution imminent, that no federal law authorizes the court relief being sought and that arguments raised were "wholly unpersuasive on the merits," according to Georgette Oden, an assistant Texas attorney general.
Blando was in an unmarked vehicle, working surveillance at a southwest Houston motel where authorities suspected auto theft activity. Williams pulled into the parking lot about 9 a.m. driving a Lexus. A check of the license plate showed the car was reported stolen the previous week. His fingerprints were found on the Lexus and also on Blando's vehicle, evidence showed.
The mortally wounded Blando managed to radio his location and tell a dispatcher he'd been shot. He also provided a description of his attacker and exchanged gunfire with him.
"I don't know about you, but I know about me, and I want to get somebody there to save my life," Lyn McClellan, the former Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Williams, said last week. "That's in my mind, I'm all about preservation."
Instead, Blando was focused on his job, McClellan said.
"Here's the guy, here's what he looks like and here's what he's wearing. And of course, one handcuff on his wrist. It ought to be easy to identify him," the former prosecutor said. "The fact he takes time to give a description of the person and the direction of travel, it's just beyond pale, beyond the line of duty. And that's what these guys do all the time."
At his trial, lawyers tried to show Williams was unintelligent, had emotional problems and didn't deserve to die.
Prosecutors said Williams had good parents and plenty of chances at help, even from the U.S. Navy, which discharged him after disciplinary problems. Evidence showed Williams gave investigators five taped confessions the day he was arrested.
Williams said he fired in self-defense, feared Blando could have been a carjacker and didn't know Blando was an officer. In another confession, he acknowledged knowing he was shooting a policeman.
Court records show Blando, although in plain clothes, was carrying his badge around his neck.
Testimony and confessions also linked Williams to four robberies, another shooting and an attempted robbery.
Williams would be the 498th Texas prisoner put to death since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. At least eight others have executions scheduled in the coming months.