Man charged in ‘senseless and cowardly’ ambush murder of deputy near Houston
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HOUSTON — Texas prosecutors charged a 30-year-old man Saturday with capital murder in the killing of a uniformed sheriff’s deputy who was gunned down from behind at a suburban Houston Chevron station while filling his patrol car with gas.
The arrest of Shannon J. Miles came less than 24 hours after authorities said he ambushed Darren Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office., in what officials called a “senseless and cowardly act.”
Miles has a criminal history that includes convictions for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct with a firearm, authorities said.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman the motive for the killing hadn’t been determined but that 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. Goforth was white.
“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.”
Hickman said investigators are working on the assumption “that he was a target because he wore a uniform.”
Goforth, 47, was pumping gas Friday night when the gunman approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to shoot even after the deputy had fallen to the ground.
The deputy had gone to the gas station in Cypress, a middle-class to upper middle-class suburban area of unincorporated Harris County northwest of Houston, after responding to a routine car accident earlier Friday.
Hickman called the killing a “cold-blooded assassination.”
“Cops’ lives matter, too,” Hickman said. “So why don’t we drop the qualifier and say lives matter.”
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson echoed Hickman’s sentiments.
“There are a few bad apples in every profession,” she said. “That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”
Texas 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.”
Hickman said Miles had been in the custody of authorities “all night.” Authorities earlier Saturday said they had been speaking with a person of interest but had not identified that individual.
Court records of Miles’ previous arrests show he lived at a home that deputies searched earlier Saturday and where a red truck — similar to one that authorities said left the scene of the shooting — was found.
Hickman credited the work of investigators and “routine research” that found the truck that led to “the suspect responsible for this senseless and cowardly act.”
“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 at a news conference. “Our deputies return to the streets tonight to hold a delicate peace that was shattered last evening.”
An impromptu memorial sprouted at the pump Goforth 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.