Houston police Officer Richard Martin was killed in the line of duty Monday while throwing down spike strips trying to stop a suspect during a high-speed chase, according to HPD.
The man who struck and killed Martin during an early-morning chase has been identified. Sources tell KPRC 2 News the suspect is Jeffery Ryan Conlin.
Officers were en route to a reported attempted burglary of an ATM at 14101 Northwest Freeway when Conlin, driving a white U-Haul van in the area at a high rate of speed, made an illegal U-turn and then ran a red light, police said. As officers began pursuing the van, the suspect fired a gun multiple times in the direction of the officers.
Officers continued to pursue the suspect's van until he reached the Katy Freeway service road at State Highway 6. There, Conlin approached the female driver of a brown Toyota at gunpoint and stole her vehicle. The 58-year-old woman was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries.
Conlin continued to flee to Kirkwood.
Martin, who was in the area, heard the approaching chase and acted to help apprehend the fleeing suspect.
As Conlin approached North Kirkwood at Saint Mary's Lane, Martin began to deploy spike strips across the roadway. That's when Conlin allegedly struck the officer and continued to flee.
"Officer Martin attempted to deploy spike strips to disable the vehicle. We have every belief to indicate to us that the suspect intentionally struck and killed Officer Martin," Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said.
Martin was pronounced dead at the scene.
Conlin eventually pulled over at 7500 North Shepherd at West Little York. Officers there reported hearing a gunshot from inside the vehicle. Officers set up a perimeter and then waited for the HPD special weapons and tactics team to arrive.
Upon arrival, SWAT officers then approached the van and found Conlin had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A shotgun and a handgun were recovered at the scene.
Conlin, 33, was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital where he remains in critical condition. If he survives, he faces capital murder charges.
It appears Conlin is not connected to the robbery call on the Northwest Freeway, police said, but the U-Haul van he was driving was stolen.
Channel 2 Investigates found that Conlin has an extensive arrest record in Harris County that dates back to 2002.
Most recently, following a theft charge in January, Conlin was charged with three additional felonies.
There were active warrants for those felonies which, according to court documents, include charges for illegal possession of body armor, drug possession and a felon in possession of a gun.
Conlin had also been earlier convicted on another theft charge in the past.
Martin, 47, was assigned to the Westside Patrol Division. The four-year veteran was sworn in as an officer in November 2010. Martin leaves behind two children -- a 22-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.
"It's very hard and difficult when you lose a friend, you lose a comrade, and still you've go to maintain your composure and professionalism so you can still do your job, conduct the investigation and get through that process," McClelland said.
Estela Rocha lives next door to Martin in Katy. She says he has lived there with his 11-year-old son for the past eight years.
"I think he was the greatest dad. He was always out playing with his son and everything. His son used to play with my grandson out here so," said Rocha. "I'm really happy that they caught him (Conlin), you know, really happy they caught him because people like that don't deserve to be out there."
Before joining HPD, Martin worked in Information Technology for several years.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker issued a statement that read: “I am deeply saddened by the death of another Houston police officer in the line of duty. Our men and women in blue leave their homes every day not knowing if they will return at the end of their shifts. They willingly place their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. I am praying for Officer Martin’s family and HPD as they mourn this loss. All of Houston mourns with them.”