After a white Houston sheriff's deputy was ambushed and fatally shot by a black man at a gas station, the sheriff linked the killing to heightened tension over the treatment of African-Americans by police, citing the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
Shannon J. Miles, whose criminal record includes convictions for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct with a firearm, was to be arraigned Monday in the shooting of Darren Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Miles' arrest Saturday came less than 24 hours after authorities said he ambushed Goforth at a suburban Houston Chevron station.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said the attack was "clearly unprovoked," and there is no evidence that Goforth knew Miles. Investigators have no information from Miles that would shed light on his motive, Hickman said.
"Our assumption is that he (Goforth) was a target because he wore a uniform," the sheriff said.
Hickman and Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson pushed back against the criticism of police.
"We've heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too," Hickman said Saturday.
The nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement that formed after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has sought sweeping reforms of policing. Related protests erupted in Texas recently after a 28-year-old Chicago-area black woman, Sandra Bland, was found dead in a county jail about 50 miles northwest of Houston three days after her arrest on a traffic violation. Texas authorities said she committed suicide but her family is skeptical of that.
Deray McKesson, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, told the Houston Chronicle: "It is unfortunate that Sheriff Hickman has chosen to politicize this tragedy and to attribute the officer's death to a movement that seeks to end violence."
A prayer walk in Goforth's honor drew hundreds of people Sunday evening. As the group marched through the streets escorted by law enforcement vehicles, traffic in the opposite lanes came to a halt, video from news helicopters showed. Onlookers stood along the road, some waving American flags and others snapping photos.
"All lives matter," Cheryl Scott told CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston. "It just happened to be in my back yard, so I'm going to do something about it. All these people are going to do something about it."
Miles had a lengthy criminal record going back a decade, but never spent more than short stints in jail.
Miles' criminal record begins in 2005, when he was convicted of criminal mischief, giving false information to police and resisting arrest, according to records. In 2006, he was convicted of disorderly conduct with a firearm and sentenced to a maximum of 15 days in jail. He was convicted of evading arrest in 2007, and his most recent conviction came in 2009 for again resisting arrest.
KHOU reports at least one of those arrests involved violence against a Harris County deputy previously.
Records show that the 30-year-old Houston resident was sentenced to several short stints in jail, anywhere from 10 to six days.
Court and jail records did not list an attorney for Miles and attempts to reach his family members on Sunday were unsuccessful.
Goforth, 47, was pumping gas at a Chevron station Friday night in Cypress, a middle- to upper-middle-class suburban area of Harris County located northwest of Houston, when the gunman approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground.
A Houston-based nonprofit group called the 100 Club, which supports the families of firefighters and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, is providing Goforth's wife with $20,000, and additional support, up to $300,000, could be provided to his family depending on their needs after an assessment is completed, the organization said.
At a vigil at the gas station Saturday night, members of the community were joined by law enforcement officers. Goforth's wife, Kathleen, released a statement to Houston television station KPRC-TV that said her husband was "ethical; the right thing to do is what guided his internal compass."
This is not the first time the issues of racial tension and anti-police sentiment have emerged following a fatal shooting of an officer. Authorities said the man who ambushed and killed two NYPD cops in Brooklyn last year made online posts that were "very anti-police" and cited Ferguson. The suspect, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on an Instagram account: "I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs." He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown.