HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — One of two Houston police officers has died after they were shot at an apartment complex Tuesday morning in southwest Houston, HPD Chief Art Acevedo said.
The officer killed has been identified as Sgt. Harold Preston, a 41-year veteran of the department. He was preparing to retire this year.
Acevedo said Preston was shot more than once in the head. He was also shot in the shoulder area and a bullet was embedded in his spine.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked that the city of Houston lift up his family in prayer, including his young daughter.
Turner identified the second officer shot as Courtney Waller. He was shot in the arm and is expected to survive.
Waller has been with the force for three years.
The shooting unfolded around 7:55 a.m. at the Richmond Manor apartments in the 2600 block of Holly Hall and El Mundo, near Highway 288.
Acevedo said officers were responding to a domestic violence situation. When Preston, Waller and another officer arrived to the scene, the estranged wife of the suspect, identified as 51-year-old Elmer Manzano, told them she was moving out and wanted to retrieve items from the apartment.
Acevedo said HPD had two previous service calls at this same address over the weekend.
On Tuesday, the woman said the door was locked and Manzano wouldn’t let her in. Officers spoke with her for an hour.
Around 9:25 a.m., Manzano’s 14-year-old son, who was with the woman in the parking lot, managed to unlock the door and open it.
The son saw that Manzano had a gun and told officers. That’s when Manzano fired multiple rounds, hitting Waller and Preston, Acevedo said.
By 9:31 a.m., officers were able to safely move Preston away from the apartment, while Manzano remained inside.
A minute later, HFD ambulances arrived, transporting Preston and Waller to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where there has been a massive police presence ever since.
HFD also transported the teen son to Texas Children’s Hospital.
Manzano was taken into custody without incident and transported to Ben Taub Hospital.
Joe Gamaldi with the Houston Police Officers’ Union has asked for thoughts and prayers.
This shooting comes just days after Houston Fire Department Arson Investigator Lemuel “DJ” Bruce was shot and killed in the Heights area.
At the time, Acevedo shared his support.
“Our hearts are broken for our friends. We will be with the Bruce Family and HFD every step of his journey to Eternal Rest,” Acevedo wrote.
According to officials, violent crime is up 11% in the city of Houston.
Six hot spots throughout the city are seeing the most violent crime numbers.
As a result, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a new initiative designed to help battle crime and decrease numbers, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Turner says the city will put $4.1 million of CARES Act funding into the initiative, which will deploy an additional 110 officers each day to the aforementioned areas to help reduce crime. The officers will stay in those areas for the remainder of the year.
There is also a grave concern about the rise in domestic violence cases since the pandemic started.
In June, 13 Investigates reported there was a spike in victims in need of protection as quarantine restrictions at the time were lifted.
Anyone who needs help getting out of a domestic violence situation can call the Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121 or call AVDA at 713-224-9911. You can also chat with an advocate online. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and need help, call 713-528-3625.
Still, this latest shooting adds to what has already been difficult for HPD since last year.
In Dec. 2019, HPD Sgt. Christopher Brewster was shot to death while responding to a domestic disturbance call in Houston’s East End.
In that case, the suspected shooter, 25-year-old Arturo Solis, was charged with capital murder of a police officer. Court documents state Solis confessed that he was aware Brewster was a police officer and shot him in order to avoid arrest.