HOUSTON – Authorities said Saturday they arrested a suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy who was gunned down from behind while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station.
The Harris County Sheriff’s office declined to give further details but said the unidentified suspect would be charged. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman was scheduled to hold a news conference at 4:30 p.m. CDT to discuss the arrest.
Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground.
Earlier Saturday, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials were questioning a person of interest and had a search warrant for a two-story brick home.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman linked the ambush to tensions across the nation over the killings of black men by police that spawned the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement.
“Our system of justice absolutely requires a law enforcement presence to protect our community,” Hickman said at a news conference earlier on Saturday. “So at any point when the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happens, this rhetoric has gotten out of control.
“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we drop the qualifier and say lives matter.”
Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children, Hickman said. As for a motive, Hickman said that until anything is known with “certainty ... it’s all speculation” but later suggested that Goforth was targeted because he was in law enforcement.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson called on what she described as “the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement.”
“There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement,” she said.
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.
“You’re talking about a guy that made a difference,” McCullar said.
Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues. The search for the suspect includes Harris County sheriff’s deputies and homicide investigators and officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70