Houston police officer bonds out of jail after being charged with intoxication manslaughter

Police officer refused sobriety test at scene, authorities say

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

RICHMOND, Texas - An off-duty Houston police officer who was involved in a fatal crash in Fort Bend County last week was legally drunk when he slammed into a sports car, killing the driver, according to police.

He is now out of jail after posting bond.

The crash happened Friday morning on Beechnut Road near F.M. Road 1464.

Investigators said a sport utility vehicle driven by Houston police Officer James Combs, 33, swerved into the oncoming lane, and slammed head-on into the sports car driven by 36-year-old Brian Manring, then rolled over it. Manring was pronounced dead at the scene. He was the father of a 6-year-old girl.

“He (Combs) initially did not want to offer a blood sample, which we were able to draft after obtaining a mandatory warrant for his blood.” Ft. Bend Co. Sheriff Troy Nehls said Tuesday.

Combs' blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.17, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication, according to the sheriff.

Many are wondering why Combs wasn't arrested at the scene, considering officers at the scene reported smelling alcohol on his breath.

"I have handled thousands of DWI cases and tried hundreds of DWIs, I've never had a situation where the individual wasn't arrested at the scene, unless there was a catastrophic injury to that person and he needed immediate medical care," Dan Cogdel, criminal defense attorney, said. "They treat their own special. They treat law enforcement better than you and me. Period. End of story."

The arrest affidavit states that on the day of the crash, Combs' wife told his HPD supervisor that her husband has a drinking problem, and that an online credit card statement showed he'd used his card that day at a strip club called the “Show Palace.”

The sheriff's office says Combs was not given special treatment.

In fact, they said they sped the process up.

Investigators subpoenaed the blood work that was taken at the hospital where Combs was checked out after the crash. They got those results within 48 hours. 
 
"If you enter Fort Bend County drinking and driving and you cause a motor vehicle crash - which takes the life of another Fort Bend County resident - I don't care what your occupation is," Nehls said.

Despite criticism from some, the sheriff's office maintains no one was given special treatment at the scene.

Combs is a six-year veteran of HPD. He worked at the Midwest patrol division. He's been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the Internal Affairs division.

On Tuesday, Combs was arrested at his home in Richmond by Fort Bend County deputies. He was charged with intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle, a second-degree felony.

Combs was being held in jail on $100,000 bond. The conditions of his bond state that while awaiting trial he cannot have a weapon, he must wear an electronic-ankle monitor, and must submit to regular drug and alcohol testing.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2