Houston, TX – The illegal alien accused of murdering Houston Police Sergeant Harold Preston and wounding a Houston police officer and a 14-year-old boy was a violent convicted felon who had been released from custody by the Harris County District Attorney just days before the deadly shooting.
Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU) attorney Mary Nan Huffman issued a scathing press release on Tuesday, blaming Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg for the 65-year-old police sergeant’s brutal murder.
Huffman, who is running to unseat Ogg in the upcoming election, said that Sgt. Preston’s death “was 100% preventable.”
The accused gunman, 51-year-old El Salvador national Elmer Manzano, is “a convicted felon with multiple prior assaults on his record,” and had been released from police custody by Ogg just days before the deadly attack, Huffman said.
“While Mr. Manzano pulled the trigger, Kim Ogg put the gun in his hands,” she declared. “Her actions were directly responsible for the death of HPD Sergeant Preston.”
Houston Police Officer Courtney Waller, a three-year veteran of the department, and Manzano’s 14-year-old son were also shot during the attack, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.
Officer Waller was also involved in another incident with Manzano on Oct. 18, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Manzano’s ex-wife, who lived with Manzano at his Richmond Manor apartment, told police that he had come home at approximately 3 a.m. on Sunday, then wanted to take one of their son’s out to McDonald’s around 7 a.m.
When she refused to let him take the child, Manzano allegedly pulled a gun on her and their children, then threatened to have her deported, she told police.
The woman told investigators she was “in fear for her life” during the encounter, the Houston Chronicle reported.
According to Huffman, police took Manzano into custody due to the alleged threat, but Ogg refused to charge him.
Officer Waller contacted Ogg’s office and was told that they would not prosecute the case, according to the officer’s report.
“No crime occurred,” Officer Waller wrote, according to the Houston Chronicle.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have since confirmed that Manzano is also a “convicted criminal alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.,” FOX News reported.
“HPD Officers took Mr. Manzano into custody that day but Kim Ogg declined to take charges, instructing the Officers to release him, leaving the gun at the scene,” she wrote in the press release. “Had charges been accepted, Mr. Manzano might be back on the street but his gun and ammunition would have been seized and held as evidence.”
“No gun would have meant no dead officer,” Huffman added. “100% preventable.”
In the same report, Officer Waller noted that the suspect’s estranged wife told him that she had reported another domestic disturbance involving Manzano on Saturday.
Houston police were also called to Manzano’s home on Monday, but the circumstances of that call for service are unclear, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The situation came to a violent head at approximately 8:15 on Tuesday morning, when the accused gunman’s estranged wife called police for assistance with retrieving some of her property from his home, FOX News reported.
Manzano refused to let her inside, so police waited with the woman and her 14-year-old son out in the parking lot for an hour before the boy was able to unlock and open the apartment door just before 9:30 a.m.
That’s when he saw his father holding a gun.
He immediately warned the officers, but not before the gunman was able to open fire on them.
Officer Waller was shot in the arm during the attack, as was Manzano’s 14-year-old son, Chief Acevedo said.
A former gang member raced to help Officer Waller in the wake of the shooting, KTRK reported.
He was able to put a tourniquet on his arm and pulled him to safety, then went back into the fray to retrieve the wounded officer’s duty weapon.
He wrapped the gun in a towel and gave it to backup officers when they arrived at the scene.
Sgt. Preston, who was one of the first officers to head into the confrontation, was shot “more than once in the head,” the chief told reporters.
He also suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder area, which left a bullet embedded in his spine.
Chief Acevedo said that Officer Waller and the 14-year-old boy are both doing well and are expected to recover from their gunshot wounds.
Manzano, who has a criminal history that is so extensive the chief angrily refused to discuss it, was shot in the abdomen during the gun battle.
He has since been hospitalized in stable condition, Chief Acevedo said.
Sgt. Preston, a 41-year veteran-of-the-force, was rushed to a local hospital.
Chief Acevedo said medical personnel were able to keep him alive long enough for his mother, his 23-year-old daughter and her mother, and his fiancé to get to his side.
He was surrounded by his family when he “breathed his last breath,” the chief told reporters. “He was not alone.”
Sgt. Preston planned to retire later this year after devoting more than four decades of his life to the HPD, Chief Acevedo said.
Huffman said that Ogg’s lack of action with regards to Sunday’s contact with Manzano was “inexcusable.”
But Ogg’s spokesperson, Dane Schiller, argued that Houston police were the ones who prevented Manzano from being charged on Sunday, the Houston Chronicle reported.
According to Schiller, the district attorney’s division chief reviewed the Oct. 18 case and told the officer that it would qualify as a “terroristic threat” if they believed the estranged wife’s claims.
Jim Leitner, the division chief, said that the officer told him he did not think an offense had been committed and that he did not think a charge was warranted, according to Schiller.
“It’s pretty tough to go against an officer who said no crime occurred,” Schiller added, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“The only person responsible for this horrible crime is the killer himself and any attempt to blame prosecutors is sadly political and not factual,” he told the paper. “The record speaks for itself; the officer in these cases didn’t believe that a crime had occurred and that left no evidence on which to base any charges.”
ICE has since placed an immigration detainer on Manzano, including a request that federal officials be notified in advance if the alleged murderer is going to be released from custody, FOX News reported.
The U.S. Boarder Patrol’s first contact with Manzano occurred in 1989 in Brownsville, Texas, according to KPRC.
He was given a future immigration court date and was released from custody, and was later granted temporary protective status in 1991.
That status expired in 1994.
Manzano later obtained work authorization, but that status expired in December of 2000, KPRC reported.
According to court records, he was arrested for unlawful carrying of a firearm in October of 1994, but adjudication was deferred for a period of one year, resulting in the charge being dismissed, KHOU reported.
Manzano received a one-year probation sentence for an assault in August of 2000, but his community supervision was later revoked and he was sentenced to six months in jail.
It appears he was not required to serve the entire six months, because Manzano was arrested on yet another assault charge in December of 2000, KHOU reported.
He was again given one year of probation, but went back to jail for six months for violating that probation term, as well.
Manzano was arrested for felony assault causing bodily injury to a family member in May of 2001.
Dallas County prosecutors deferred prosecution for a period of two years, resulting in the charge being dismissed, KHOU reported.
He was charged with felony evading police in 2002, which landed him a six-month jail sentence, KPRC reported.
A Harris County judge issued a protective order against Manzano in 2004.