Houston cop shot dead on Gulf Freeway

A Houston police officer was shot and injured Wednesday in an exchange of gunfire with a man during a traffic stop, authorities said.

Chief Troy Finner said two HPD officers carried out a traffic stop around 11:20 a.m. in the 14300 block of the Gulf Freeway near Astoria in front of an Exxon gas station.

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The officers, members of the department’s road interdiction unit, asked the person to get out of his vehicle. The person exchanged a few words with the officers, got out and “immediately started shooting” at the two officers, Finner said.

The officers – both 10-year veterans – returned fire, hitting the man repeatedly. One officer was shot in the pelvic area, Finner said, and also sustained a minor chest injury. The other officer was not injured.

“Thank goodness for his ballistic vest and flashlight,” Finner said. “It probably saved his life.”

The man shot dead by police is believed to be in critical condition, Finner said.

He had been the subject of a narcotics investigation by a multi-jurisdictional task force that included the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Harris County Constable’s Office 5 and the Department of Texas Public Safety.

Authorities had an active warrant for the man’s arrest, Finner added, and said he was out on $100,000 bond.

Finner, who arrived at the hospital in his uniform after having to hastily leave a cadet graduation in North Houston earlier in the day, said he spoke with the injured officer, who he said he was “in a good mood”.

“His wife, children, family and friends are shaken,” he said, “but he will be fine.”

Authorities have yet to name the shooter or the officers who shot him. Finner and other police officials said the injured officer was a 10-year veteran who worked in the Traffic Police’s Highway Interdiction Unit. The man’s colleagues said he came from a law enforcement family, with a recently retired father and a brother who also works for the department.

At the gas station and convenience store, an unmarked police car and an HPD patrol car are positioned next to a truck parked near one of the gas pumps. A car service station is nearby.

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“I thought what I heard were firecrackers,” added Mike Cho, who works at the auto service station, as soon as the shots rang out police were already converging on the scene.

Garrett Germany, 30, whose daily 4-mile cycling route to work takes him along the Gulf Freeway service road, said he was ‘shocked’ by the scene he encountered on the way back on Wednesday.

“You don’t really see that kind of crime here at this particular location,” Germany said, adding that the area just inland where the incident happened is largely residential. “It’s a low-key area.”

The shooting will be investigated, per department policy, by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Finner’s own investigators and the Internal Affairs Division.

This is the 15th shooting between police and members of the public this year, Finner said.

“Every time someone hurts someone in our city, I get upset,” he said. “But I am very upset about what is happening in our nation, our state and our county.”

He lamented the rise in gun violence at home and abroad and defended the actions of his officers.

“What can we do when people are shooting at us and putting us in this position?” he said.

The chief praised officers for “immediately” providing first aid to the man, as well as another officer for transporting his injured colleague to hospital. As he has often said in past shootings, he expressed frustration with the record of gun violence in Houston and elsewhere.

In recent months, the task force has focused on combating an influx of drugs containing fentanyl, Pct said. 5 Chief Deputy Brian Harris, whose department works alongside HPD within the group.

Law enforcement and harm reduction groups have reported a flood of drugs tainted with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid first used in medical settings but has become popular among illegal drug producers due to its extreme power.

In recent years, authorities have noticed fentanyl being added to many types of drugs, from methamphetamine to cocaine.

“It’s a Harris County-wide problem,” he said.

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