HOUSTON – A man charged in connection with the death of a Bellaire police officer two years ago was found guilty Friday and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Dante Moore was charged with evading arrest. A jury started deliberating Thursday and came to a verdict Friday morning.
Prosecutors said Moore, 30, led Officer Marco Zarate on a chase in July 2016 that resulted in Zarate's death.
"I'm thankful the jury found him guilty. Extremely disappointed because he has the possibility of being free. It's not fair for my family. He was my everything. The love of my life. I don't have him anymore. I don't want anyone else to have to go through what we've gone through," Maria Cecilia Zarate, Marco Zarate's widow, said.
Marso Zarate attempted to pull over Moore and his twin brother after receiving a report of a shoplifting incident at the Target store in Meyerland Plaza, officials said.
Authorities said during the pursuit, Zarate, who was on a police motorcycle, lost control and crashed into a parked landscaping trailer.
"(Moore) stated that he was traveling at speeds close to 80 mph through the residential neighborhood," a prosecutor said in 2016.
Zarate later died at a hospital.
Moore, who was originally charged with murder, was on trial for the charge of evading arrest causing death.
In closing arguments, defense attorneys argued while Moore may have fled from police, he did not cause Zarate’s death.
“If he caused him to die, we would be here on a murder charge,” said attorney Danny Easterling.
Attorneys for Moore argued that Zarate was speeding while chasing Moore on his motorcycle through the neighborhood and that he hit a dip in the road before losing control and crashing into the trailer.
“A dip in the road. Speed. They are blaming him for dying for simply doing his job," Assistant Harris County District Attorney Sean Teare said. "You’ve seen the cellphone footage, the surveillance footage and the body camera footage."
Prosecutors also said Moore admitted to being the driver of the car Zarate was chasing and that his actions led to the officer's death.
Moore's sentence was enhanced because of his criminal history.
Three of Moore's family members, including his mother, testified Friday afternoon during the punishment phase of the trial.
Cynthia Moore asked jurors to have compassion for her son and to think about forgiveness.
"He is extremely remorseful. He doesn't always know how to say it, but he has been praying for the officer's family and asked God for forgiveness," Cynthia Moore said.
Moore's aunt, Felicia Ratliff, broke down in tears during her testimony and told the jury her nephew is a good boy with a good heart who has made some bad decisions.
"We know and we understand death. I ask the jury to have mercy on my nephew," Ratliff said.
Ratliff also testified that Moore didn't realize the officer had gotten into a wreck and that once he found out and saw it on the news, he turned himself in to authorities.
After the punishment was handed down, Moore's family came face to face with officer Zarate's family.
Ratliff hugged Maria Zarate outside the courtroom.
"Everyone wants comfort. We felt we needed to let the family know we feel bad. It's been a horrible 30 months. We wanted to show her regardless of what went on that We are caring people. We have a heart. They are not on this alone," Moore said.