A Houston police helicopter crashed early Saturday, killing one of the two officers on board and critically injuring the other, while assisting a call to search for bodies in a nearby bayou, officials said.
A pilot and tactical flight officer were aboard a police helicopter when it crashed at an apartment complex around 2 a.m. They were flown to a hospital where the tactical flight officer died, police Chief Art Acevedo said hours after the crash during a news conference where he was joined by the city's mayor, Sylvester Turner.
The department identified the officer who died as Tactical Flight Officer Jason Knox. He is survived by a wife and two young children, who were at the hospital along with his parents and in-laws, Acevedo said.
"We're going to miss him," Acevedo said. "He had a heart of gold, integrity second to none."
No cause for the crash was given and Acevedo said the National Transportation Board and the Federal Aviation Administration would investigate while Houston police conduct a separate homicide investigation.
Acevedo noted that shots rang out across the street from the scene at around 3 a.m. and six people were taken into custody.
The crash investigation would explore whether the helicopter was struck by gunfire, Acevedo said, noting instances in his previous work in Austin and California when police helicopters were fired upon.
The pilot, Senior Police Officer Chase Cormier, was "very banged up," and had serious injuries, but was conscious Saturday afternoon. There were no injuries to anyone on the ground at the apartment complex, a masked Acevedo told reporters.
The helicopter was supposed to assist with a search for bodies in a nearby bayou, which was prompted by a tip that the police chief characterized as "probably a bogus call -- we don't know."
"No evidence to date of any bodies in the bayou," Acevedo said.
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The officers were trapped in "mangled" wreckage and it took firefighters about an hour to cut them out, Acevedo said. The helicopter did not catch fire and avoided striking occupied apartment buildings. It did clip the Biscayne at Cityview apartment complex's clubhouse.
The police department is shutting down flights until it has a chance to reassess in the coming days, and will be relying on the Texas Department of Public Safety and Harris County Sheriff's Office for flight support in the interim.
Acevedo identified the helicopter as "75 Fox."
"It's pretty ironic that yesterday we graduated a class and we had Fox fly out because we had COVID, so we couldn't do your traditional graduation so we wanted to do something special," Acevedo said. "And if somebody had told me that a few hours later that we had an aircraft down and we'd lose a really good man, I would have said `No way."'
Turner, the mayor, called on the people of the city "to continue to lift up, number one, both families, but especially lift up the family of the police officer who has died this morning. And then at the same time lift up the entire HPD family."