A man arrested Saturday in the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy at a Houston gas station Friday has been charged with capital murder, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman told reporters at a news conference Saturday evening.
The arrest of Shannon J. Miles — who has a criminal history that includes convictions for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct with a firearm, according to an Associated Press report — came less than 24 hours after authorities said he ambushed Darren Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, at a suburban Houston Chevron station.
Goforth had stopped to fill up his patrol car Friday night when a man approached from behind and “literally shot him to death,” Hickman said.
Goforth, 47, died after being shot several times in what Hickman described as “an unprovoked, execution-style killing of a police officer.” Goforth is survived by his wife and two children, ages 5 and 12.
“We have not been able to extract any details regarding a motive at this point. As far as we know, Deputy Goforth had no previous contact with the suspect, and it appears to be clearly unprovoked,” Hickman said.
Hickman said 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.”
Court and jail records did not list an attorney for Miles.
In a statement Saturday, 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.”
The manhunt for the gunman stretched into Saturday afternoon as authorities pleaded for the public to provide any tips about the shooting. Investigators said they believed Goforth was targeted for his uniform and described the working motive as “absolute madness.”
Goforth is the 23rd officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit group that tracks line-of-duty fatalities. Fewer officers were shot and killed during the first half of 2015 than during the same time period in 2014, according to the group.
The deputy had finished working a routine incident and stopped at a Chevron to pump gas. “A male suspect came up behind the deputy and shot the deputy multiple times. The deputy then fell to the ground,” Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Gilliland told reporters Friday night. “The suspect then continued over to him and shot the deputy again multiple times as he laid on the ground.”
A witness called 911 to report the shooting, Gilliland said. Hickman said the earlier incident Goforth worked on and the shooting appear to be unrelated.
A representative with the Houston-based 100 Club, a nonprofit organization that supports the families of officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty, said the group will give $20,000 to Goforth’s family to help “with immediate needs.”
“It’s a very, very tough moment right now for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office,” Gilliland said. “I would ask that you keep us in your prayers and your thoughts.”
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,”said McCullar, 49, 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.”