Houston police officer killed by illegal immigrant, another officer injured

Two Houston police officers responded to a domestic violence call Tuesday morning which resulted in the death of one officer and another injured. An illegal immigrant killed a Houston police officer just weeks away from retirement.

Sgt. Harold Preston, a 41-year veteran of the force, was at the end of his career, preparing to file paperwork to retire in just a matter of weeks. He was 65 years old. The other officer involved, Courtney Waller, is a three-year veteran of the department. Waller was shot in an arm and expected to recover. The story is tragic enough but the fact that the murderer is an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record just compounds the tragedy.

Elmer Rolando Manzano-Martinez, age 51, is in the U.S. illegally from El Salvador. He was arrested on the scene.

“We’ve lost just a wonderful human being,” Acevedo said during a news conference at Memorial Hermann Hospital. “He is leading with men and women on streets, instead of choosing to sit in an office drinking coffee and reading the paper. That is the man he was — he is a man who lived with elderly parents to take care of them. As good as he was as a cop, he was a better human being, that is just the guy that he was and we are going to miss him.”

ICE officials identified Manzano-Martinez as a “convicted criminal alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.” The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) unit of ICE placed an immigration detainer with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Detainers are placed against illegal immigrants who “have been arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens, the agency statement said. The detainer requests that a state or local law enforcement agency notify ICE in advance if the suspect will be released.”

Manzano-Martinez was shot in the abdomen area and his condition is stable in the hospital. He is expected to be charged with murder.

The domestic violence call came in about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. Manzano-Martinez’s estranged wife called police for help in getting into their apartment. She told Officers Preston and Waller and another officer on the scene that she wanted to get her belongings out of the apartment as she was moving out. She had their 14-year-old son with her. They were out in the apartment complex’s parking lot when police arrived. Multiple units responded, as well as fire trucks and a SWAT team in case it was a situation where Manzano-Martinez tried to barricade himself in the apartment. The reporting states that when the suspect’s son opened the apartment’s door, he saw his father with a gun and alerted the police about it. Houston Police Chief Acevedo said Manzano-Martinez fired multiple rounds in their direction.

Officer Preston was hit multiple times, including more than once in the head. His fellow officers moved him to safety. Officer Waller was moved by a bystander and escorted to safety in front of the apartment complex. That person also went back and retrieved Waller’s handgun which fell on the ground a short distance away, wrapped it in a towel, and handed it to the police on site. Manzano-Martinez surrendered after barricading himself inside the apartment.

Could all of this have been prevented? It’s likely that it could have been prevented. Besides the fact that the killer, a convicted felon with multiple prior assaults on his record, is in Texas illegally, there was an incident just two days earlier.

On October 18, HPD Officers responded to a call from Mrs. Santos, stated that her ex-husband, Elmer Manzano, was at the location brandishing a gun threatening Mrs. Santos and her children. HPD Officers took Elmer Manzano into custody that day but Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg declined to take charges, instructing Officers to release him, and return the six bullets he had in his pocket, he was also allowed to keep his gun which he claimed was locked in his safe. 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 and injured officer.

This is a horrible story. The actions of the Harris County District Attorney ( up for re-election, I add here) have to be weighed into the death of Officer Preston, right? It is particularly hard to stomach because D.A. Ogg, a Democrat, was the executive director of Crime Stoppers before she became Harris County District Attorney. Shouldn’t she be aware of the dangers of domestic violence situations? Why was Manzano-Martinez in possession of a gun in the first place, much less allowed to keep it? The story on Fox News online says the police responded to calls from that apartment twice over the weekend for domestic violence. The police chief said that Manzano-Martinez has a long criminal history. In 2002 he was charged with felony evading of police. Manzano pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 120 days in jail. He didn’t serve his sentence in state prison, as is normally the case.

So, why did he have a gun?

“There is a very narrow exception in Texas that allows for a convicted felon, after a five-year waiting period to possess a gun, but only when in the home they reside in.”

It is unclear whether Manzano had the gun legally or not.

You’ll have to excuse my cynicism here. I’m assuming that a convicted felon who is here illegally probably illegally had a gun in his possession, too.

The problems with immigration laws and monitoring people in our country are a part of this story, too. His presence in Texas goes back thirty years.

Sources told KPRC 2 Investigates that Border Patrol first encountered Manzano in Brownsville, Texas, in 1989. He was released with a future immigration court date. He was granted temporary protective status in 1991, and that status expired in 1994. He was issued work authorization, but that authorization expired on Dec. 20, 2000.

I do ponder if the police chief ever feels twinges of guilt when these deaths occur. He is a politically active Democrat who does not support ICE in Houston. He compared ICE agents to Nazis in 2019 during a case involving an 11-year-old girl and a bogus story that she was being separated from her mother. He is also a vocal critic of President Trump.

Governor Abbott issued a statement.

A police motorcade escorted Preston’s body to the Medical Examiner’s office.

R.I.P., Officer Preston.