(Reuters) - Houston-area officials on Saturday blamed the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy on anti-police sentiment around the country over policing and race.
Police questioned one person early on Saturday morning about the fatal shooting, but Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at a news conference that no one was in custody.
Harris County deputy Darren Goforth, in uniform, was pumping gas into his patrol car on Friday night when the gunman approached from behind and fired several shots, sheriff’s officials said. No motive has been reported.
Hickman expressed outrage at the shooting, which occurred as demonstrators nationwide have been protesting police killings of unarmed minorities, in particular black men.
“Our system of justice absolutely requires a law enforcement presence to protect our communities, so at any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen(s). This rhetoric has gotten out of control,” Hickman said.
“We’ve heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well cops’ lives matter too; so why don’t we just drop the qualifier and just say lives matter and take that to the bank,” Hickman said.
Hickman remarks referred to the group Black Lives Matter, whose protests against police violence and the mass incarceration of black men have disrupted political and other events.
The suspect in video of the Goforth shooting appeared to be black. The deputy was white.
Television stations showed footage provided by police, from a gas station surveillance video that caught the ambush of Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, who left behind a wife and two young children.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said, “It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,” she said at the press conference. “There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”
Hickman said there were several possible witnesses to the shooting and he pleaded with them to come forward.
“It’s not an incident where an individual was provoked by a confrontation with an officer,” Hickman said. “This is just a cold-blooded execution. How do you protect against that?”
Earlier, sheriff’s office spokesman deputy Thomas Gilliland told reporters that the gunman shot Goforth as he was standing and then multiple more times after he laid on the ground.
Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Barbara Goldberg in New York.; Editing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and Steve Orlofsky