Criminal Justice

Man Charged With Capital Murder In Shooting Death Of Houston Police Sergeant

Elmer Manzano, 51, was charged with capital murder of a police officer, attempted capital murder of a police officer and aggravated assault with serious bodily injury.

Lights on top of a police vehicle.

Updated 4:07 p.m. CT

A man accused of killing an HPD sergeant could face the death penalty after being charged Wednesday with capital murder of a police officer.

Elmer Manzano, 51, was charged with the shooting death of 41-year HPD veteran Harold Preston, after the sergeant and two other officers responded to a domestic distrubance call at Manzano’s southwest Houston apartment Tuesday.

Preston, officer Courtney Waller and a third HPD responder arrived at the scene about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, after Manzano’s wife called to report the incident. She had been trying to collect her things to move out of the apartment, police said.

After more than an hour of trying to get Manzano out, her son opened the door and saw his father brandishing a firearm, according to HPD.

That’s when police chief Art Acevedo said a firefight ensued. Preston was shot twice in the head, and both Waller and the son were shot in the arm. The two officers were rushed to Memorial Hermann hospital, where Preston was pronounced dead. Waller and the 14-year-old boy, who was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital, were both expected to recover.

Manzano later surrendered to police. He was hospitalized at Ben Taub with gunshot wounds to the abdomen. He was expected to recover.

In addition to the capital murder charges, Manzano was also charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer and aggravated assault with serious bodily injury.

Police said there had been domestic violence calls to that location on Saturday, Sunday and Monday as well.

Mary Nan Huffman, a GOP candidate for district attorney and lawyer for the Houston Police Officers’ Union, blamed the shooting in part on current DA Kim Ogg, saying she had refused to accept charges in those calls.

But a report obtained by Houston Public Media appears to show at least one officer claimed a crime had not been committed at the scene.

The report, which was dated Monday and lists notes from Manzano’s intake, stated: “OFFICER DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT AN OFFENSE OCCURRED AFTER TALKING WITH ALL OF THE PARTIES.” Officer Waller and another officer named Taylor were both listed on the report. It was not immediately clear whether one or both of the officers were cited.

Dane Schiller, a spokesperson for Ogg’s office, said Huffman was playing politics in her criticism of the DA.

“The only person responsible for this horrible crime is the killer himself and any attempt to blame prosecutors is sadly political and not factual,” Schiller said. “The record speaks for itself; the officers in these cases didn't believe that a crime had occurred and that left no evidence on which to base any charges.”

Despite the lack of charges in previous calls, Emilee Whitehurst, president of the Houston Area Women's Center, said people experiencing family violence still need resources to escape danger — even if that doesn’t include prosecution.

"We need to be able to make sure that if a crime has not officially been committed, that doesn't mean we just leave and let her figure it out,” she said.

Whitehurst added that victims of domestic violence should contact the women's center for resources and to help create safety plans.

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Paul DeBenedetto

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Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior web producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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Florian Martin

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