Officer shot dead, suspect injured at Houston mall

An off-duty San Jacinto County deputy police officer was fatally shot Wednesday afternoon by a man who took control of his gun during a disturbance at a southern mall west of Houston, authorities said.

Deputy Neil Adams was working an extra job at the PlazAmericas mall at 7500 Bellaire Boulevard in Sharpstown when a disturbance broke out and someone grabbed his gun, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.

The man shot Adams, Finner said, and Houston police responded around 4 p.m. to a call to help the deputy. Minutes later, the suspect presented himself to officers with a sharp object, likely a knife, in the mall’s food court; two officers fired at the gunman, hitting him.

The suspect later died in hospital. Police said it was a black male in his 30s but did not release his name.

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The officers who discharged their weapons both worked for the police department’s Midwest Division and had two years of experience. They have been placed on administrative leave. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the police shooting, in accordance with policy.

Top law enforcement officials from across the region, including Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña, San Jacinto County 1 Constable Roy Rogers, and San Jacinto Greg Capers gathered at a press conference Wednesday night outside Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Rogers, who rushed to Houston after receiving a call from Finner, asked for prayers for the family of the slain deputy.

“We have lost one of our heroes,” he said. “He’s a good man, he worked hard to take care of his family, to take care of the constituents of our county.”

Adams was the San Jacinto County environmental officer, according to Rogers. The deputy constable became a peace officer in 2012 and previously worked for the sheriff’s department.

San Jacinto County is located about 70 miles north of Houston near the Sam Houston National Forest.

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Dee Dee Adams, the deputy constable’s wife, also spoke briefly, criticizing anti-police sentiment and urging the public to pray for law enforcement in the area.

“Pray for all the (police) sheepdogs out there,” she said, referring to a common description of law enforcement officers as guardians of the public, or sheep.

She said the police “got bad press” as they were simply trying to protect the public.

It is unclear what exactly led to the shooting. Finner said there was “a kind of confrontation”. Several shots were fired.

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The violent encounter surprised customers and mall employees.

Roni Brizuela said he was working at the mall when he heard gunshots and screams.

“I threw myself on the ground,” he said.

He saw police rush into the mall and two injured people taken away on stretchers as he took refuge in a store with a closed door.

The shooting prompted the mall to close for the rest of the day.

Along with other shoppers and employees, Brizuela rushed to her car to leave the scene.

The shooting is the latest in a string of attacks on local law enforcement officials. Cpl. Charles Galloway of the Harris County 5 Constable’s Office was fatally shot Jan. 23 during a traffic stop.

The next day, Sgt. Ramon Gutierrez of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was fatally struck by a driver during a traffic escort.

Additionally, three Houston police officers were injured Jan. 27 in a chaotic domestic disturbance call that ended in a shooting.

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Peggy P. Gilmore