By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(HOUSTON) — A suspect was arrested Tuesday in the fatal shooting of a Houston police sergeant, as mournful colleagues marked the fourth Houston officer killed in the line of duty since December and the second gunned down in just the past three weeks.
The slain officer was identified as 47-year-old Sgt. Sean Rios, a married father of four and a 25-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, officials said.
“This is a tragic case and it’s just been a very rough year in our city,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo announced Tuesday evening that authorities arrested Robert Soliz, 24, in connection with Rios’ death. Soliz is also suspected in a series of road rage shootings, Acevedo said.
Soliz was taken into custody by a police department narcotics tactical team that conducted a felony traffic stop “after viewing the passenger and identifying him as a suspect we’ve been concentrating on since the onset of this investigation,” Acevedo said. He said the suspect has been “uncooperative.”
Acevedo said Monday’s shooting occurred as Rios was driving to work. Rios was assigned to George Bush International Airport and was scheduled to begin his shift there at 2 p.m., Acevedo said.
The chief said it appeared that Rios may have come across a shooting in progress.
“Understanding Sgt. Rios’ reputation and he’s known for [being] a guy who’s a former Marine … he doesn’t turn the other cheek. He doesn’t put on the blinders. If he saw something, he’s going to act,” Acevedo said at a Tuesday evening press conference. “And we do have 911 calls indicating an exchange of gunfire between a white pickup truck and a Mercedes-Benz matching the description of the vehicle that we have in police custody, and that’s the suspect’s vehicle.”
“So we believe there’s a high probability that Sgt. Rios saw that incident between those two vehicles and tried to intervene,” Acevedo said.
After being shot multiple times, Rios ran to a nearby motel and collapsed, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Siddharth Gandhi, manager at the Taj Inn & Suites, told Houston ABC station KTRK that he heard four gunshots before Rios staggered into his motel’s office, covered in blood. Rios asked employees to call 911 then fell to the floor, Gandhi said.
Acevedo also said police are still searching for a “person of extreme interest” who was seen in security footage speaking with Soliz in a parking lot and appearing to point his finger as if shooting.
“And I have a message for this individual: The video we’re going to show the community is clear,” Acevedo said. “The person, when they see themselves, they’ll know who they are, but they’re going to know that other people know who this person is.”
“We’re going to find you. You might as well turn yourself in,” Acevedo added.
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Rios is the 43rd U.S. law enforcement officer feloniously killed in the line of duty this year, which represents a 19% increase over the same period in 2019, according to preliminary statistics from the FBI. Eight of those officers have died as the result of being ambushed, according to the FBI.
In all of 2019, a total of 48 U.S. law enforcement officers were feloniously killed, including 36 who were shot to death, FBI statistics show.
Besides four children, ages 17, 14, 12 and 9, Rios is survived by his wife, parents and brother, as well as two cousins who are Houston police detectives, Acevedo said.
“Please pray for Rios’ family, for his extended HPD family and for this community,” Acevedo said.
Rios’ death follows the Oct. 20 death of Houston Police Sgt. Harold Preston, 65, who was shot multiple time while answering a domestic violence call.
Elmer Manzano, 51, was arrested and charged with capital murder of a police officer and attempted capital murder of a police officer in Preston’s death and for wounding another officer who responded to the call after Manzano allegedly shot his 14-year-old son. Manzano, who was shot in the stomach during the confrontation, has yet to enter a plea to the charges.
Houston police officer Jason Knox, 35, was killed on May 2 when his police helicopter crashed into a building in Houston.
Last Dec. 7, Houston Police Sgt. Christopher Brewster, 32, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call. The suspect in the shooting, Arturo Solis, 25, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of capital murder of a police officer.
In addition to the four Houston police officers killed in the line of duty in the last 12 months, Lemuel Bruce, a veteran arson investigator for the Houston Fire Department, was shot to death on Oct. 16, 2020, while conducting surveillance in a string of arson fires, officials said. After shooting Bruce, the suspect, Joshua De La Cerda, died by suicide, police said.
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