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Houston police officer rushed into gunbattle "because I knew my guys were down"

Houston police officers recovering after shootout

A veteran Houston police officer who was shot after rushing into a gunbattle at a suspected drug house to help two of his wounded colleagues said he had to do it "because I knew my guys were down," the city's police chief said Tuesday. The officer, who has been on the police force for 32 years, was shot for the third time in his career Monday, Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference.

"'I had to get in there because I knew my guys were down,'" Acevedo said the officer, 54, wrote in a note. "That just speaks volumes as to this man and just his courage under fire."

Four officers in total were shot Monday, and a fifth suffered a knee injury in the gunbattle, which stemmed from an attempt to serve a search warrant. Acevedo didn't identify the officers because they all work undercover in narcotics.

The police department said in a statement later Tuesday that the 54-year-old officer was shot in the neck and listed in serious but stable condition. At the press conference, Acevedo described the officer as a "big teddy bear" who was also shot in the line of duty in 1992 and 1997.

"He's a big African-American strong ox, tough as nails, and the only thing bigger than his body, in terms of his stature, is his courage," Acevedo said. "I think God had to give him that big body to be able to contain his courage because the man's got some tremendous courage."

Two suspects were killed in the gunbattle. Acevedo identified them as Rhogena Nicholas, 58, and Dennis Tuttle, 59.

A 40-year-old officer who has been on the police force for nine years was shot in the neck and was also listed in serious but stable condition, the police department said in its statement. Dr. Michelle McNutt, chief of trauma surgery at Memorial Hermann hospital, said the officer underwent surgery Monday night and required more surgery.

"He's in a fight," Acevedo said during the press conference. "... We just need the community's prayers for him and his family."

An officer who was shot in the face would likely be discharged from the hospital later Tuesday, McNutt said. That officer is a 50-year-old sergeant who has been on the force for 25 years, Acevedo said.

The fourth wounded officer, who was shot in the shoulder, is 33 years old and has been on the force for 10 years, Acevedo said. The officer was discharged on Monday, the chief said.

The officer with the injured knee underwent orthopedic surgery and would likely be discharged later in the week, McNutt said. That officer is a 50-year-old sergeant who has been on the force for 27 years, Acevedo said.