Prosecutors on Saturday charged a 30-year-old man with capital murder in the killing of a sheriff's deputy who was gunned down from behind while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman identified the man as Shannon J. Miles, who had a previous record including charges of resisting arrest and trespassing. He is charged with killing Darren Goforth, 47, a 10-year veteran of the force.
"I am proud of the men and women that have worked swiftly to apprehend the responsible person who posed a significant threat to both law enforcement and the community at large," Hickman said. "Our deputies return to the streets tonight to hold a delicate peace that was shattered last evening."
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He said the motive for the killing had not been determined but investigators would look at whether Miles, who is black, was motivated by anger over recent killings elsewhere of black men by police that have spawned the "Black Lives Matter" protest movement.
"I think that's something that we have to keep an eye on," Hickman said. "The general climate of that kind of rhetoric can be influential on people to do things like this. We're still searching to find out if that's actually a motive."
Goforth, who was white, was pumping gas Friday night when the gunman approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground.
Earlier on Saturday, Hickman had called the killing a "cold-blooded assassination."
"Cops' lives matter, too," Hickman said then. "So why don't we drop the qualifier and say lives matter."
In a statement Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott 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."
The deputy had gone to the Chevron gas station in Cypress, a middle-class to upper middle-class suburban area of Harris County that is unincorporated and located northwest of Houston, after responding to a routine car accident earlier Friday.
An impromptu memorial sprouted at the pump he had 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 was open Saturday, 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 the two 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. Goforth had a wife and two children.
"You're talking about a guy that made a difference," McCullar said.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued the following statement Saturday:
"Heinous and deliberate crimes against law enforcement will not be tolerated in the State of Texas," said Governor Abbott. "Texas reveres the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to Deputy Goforth's family and the Harris County Sheriff's Office during this difficult time. I know local law enforcement will work tirelessly to apprehend the killer and ensure justice for Deputy Goforth is served."
And Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released the following statement
"Overnight tragedy struck in Northwest Harris County. A deputy from the Harris County Sheriff's office was ambushed, shot and murdered in cold blood after stopping for gas at a convenience store near Houston.
"This senseless act is a reminder of the danger our men and women in law enforcement face everyday and the courage they demonstrate to protect their communities.
"Please keep Deputy Darren Goforth's family in your thoughts and prayers and remember to thank all law enforcement officers that risk it all, without any thought of reward, for our safety."