HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities said Saturday they are questioning a person of interest in the death of a uniformed sheriff's deputy who was shot several times while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station.
Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, authorities said.
Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials are speaking with a person of interest in connection with the shooting and have obtained a search warrant for the two-story brick home where the person lives. No arrests have been made, Gilliland said. A news conference is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Nine patrol cars, including one with the words "crime scene unit" on the side of the vehicle, were parked near the home, which is about a quarter-mile from the gas station in Copperfield, a middle-class to upper middle-class area of Harris County that is unincorporated.
Police described the suspect as a male with a dark complexion, about 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts and driving a red or maroon pickup-style truck with an extended cab. Authorities did not say what race they believe him to be.
Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children, according to Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman.
"In my 45 years in law enforcement, I can't recall another incident so cold-blooded and cowardly," Hickman said, who added no motive had been determined.
An impromptu memorial had begun Saturday morning at the Chevron station pump that Goforth was using on Friday night, 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, 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 spoke often.
"He was passionate about what he did," the 49-year-old said, 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."
Goforth had traveled to the Chevron station after responding to a routine car accident, Gilliland said.
"He was pumping gas into his vehicle and the male suspect came up behind him and shot the deputy multiple times," Gilliland told the Houston Chronicle. "The deputy fell to ground. The suspect came over and shot the deputy again multiple times as he lay on the ground."
Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues.
"I can tell you with diligence and justice the suspect will be caught," Gilliland told the newspaper. "And he will be brought to justice ... This is a very callous individual."
Harris County Sheriff's deputies and homicide investigators joined officers from other agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department, in the search.
"This is a very tough moment right now for the Harris County Sheriff's Office," Gilliland said. "Keep us in your prayers and in your thoughts."
Bob Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, said the incident was "shocking."
"We've been warned of things like this, because of public sentiment nationally and events over the last few years ... It's just horrific. That's the only way to describe it."