Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman describes the killing of a Texas Deputy Darren H. Goforth, 47 who was shot “Execution-syle’ on Friday as a “cold-blooded assassination” and condemned the “very dangerous national rhetoric” about police officers that he said was out of control.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Deputy Darren Goforth was targeted simply because of his uniform. He went on to say that, at this time, the motive appears to be “absolute madness.”
USA Today Reports:
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman described the killing of a deputy sheriff at a gas station as a “cold-blooded assassination” and angrily condemned the “very dangerous national rhetoric” about police officers that he said was out of control.
Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, was fatally shot late Friday while filling his patrol car in northwest Harris County.
The suspect, whose image was caught on surveillance video, approached Goforth from behind and shot him several times in the back. He continued to fire even after the officer had fallen to the ground.
The suspect is shown in photos as a dark-skinned male wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts and apparently driving a red or maroon-colored Ford pickup.
Rickman said an intense manhunt was underway and that officers were speaking to several people in connection with the shooting, but that no arrest had been made yet.
Hickman said the killing was unprovoked and that Goforth was apparently singled out only because he was wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer. The sheriff made it clear he felt the shooting was tied to a national backlash over several recent killings of unarmed black people by police officers.
“When rhetoric ramps up to the point where cold-blooded assassination has happened, this rhetoric has gotten out of control,” he said. “We heard ‘black lives matter.’ All lives matter. Well, cops’ lives matter too, so why don’t we drop the qualifier and say ‘lives matter’ and take that to the bank.”
Black Lives Matter is a decentralized national movement that gained momentum after recent shootings by police officers.
His remarks echoed comments in the same new conference by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who said the criticism of police had gotten out of hand.
“It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,” she told reporters at the news conference. “There are a few bad apples in every profession, that does not mean there should be open warfare on law enforcement.”
Earlier, sheriff’s office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials were speaking with a person of interest in connection with the shooting and had obtained a search warrant for the person’s home.
Goforth was a 10-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, working the west district patrol division. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Hickman said in his 45 years of law enforcement, he can’t recall another incident “this cold blooded and cowardly.”
According to Hickman, Goforth had finished investigating a traffic accident about 30 minutes before he was killed. Hickman said there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the traffic investigation and the shooting.
Goforth was working alone Friday evening, which is common procedure, Gilliland said.
As word spread of the deputy’s death, mothers and fathers brought their children to lay flowers at the base of the gas pump. Grown men and women wept and prayed, KHOU-TV reports.
Several of the people who came to the pay their respects were especially disturbed by the sudden and perplexing circumstances of his death.
“I mean, he was doing his job, but he was just standing there,” said Barbara Adams, who lives nearby. “The cold-bloodedness of it really hit me.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Constable’s Office, DPS, Texas Rangers, the FBI and U.S. Marshals are assisting in the investigation as well as the search for the suspect and any motive.
Hickman said there are multiple witnesses to the incident, and he is asked for anyone with information- to come forward.
“We are reaching out to the community for assistance (in) capturing the violent individual for the senseless death of Deputy Goforth,” the sheriff said.