HOUSTON – Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said Wednesday that his officers and prosecutors did the best they could during previous run-ins with the man now accused of killing one officer and wounding another.
Officers encountered Elmer Manzano during previous calls to the home of Manzano’s estranged wife.
According to a police report about a Sunday disturbance call at the home, Manzano’s estranged wife told officers that he had a gun and a silver badge. Officers searched Manzano and found bullets but no weapon, according to the report. Manzano told officers that he has a gun but it’s stored in a safe, according to the report.
Manzano, who is an undocumented Salvadoran national, has a felony conviction from 2002, but, according to the report, his background came back clean when officers ran it. If that conviction had shown up, officers would have known that Manzano was violating federal gun laws by possessing a weapon.
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It is also illegal for an undocumented immigrant to possess a firearm, according to defense attorney Nathan Hennigan.
“It’s illegal in federal law,” Hennigan said. “The state law doesn’t address immigration.”
HPD does not question someone’s immigration status unless that is an element of the call to which they are responding, according to Acevedo. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a similar policy.
Ultimately, charges against Manzano for Sunday’s incident were not pursued.
“We did our best to deal with what we knew at the time, and so did the DA’s office,” Acevedo said.
“In this case, I truly believe that the officers made the best decision that they could at the scene with the information that they had,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
According to police, a disturbance call on Tuesday led to Manzano fatally shooting HPD Sgt. Harold Preston. Officer Courtney Weller and Manzano’s 14-year-old son were also wounded by gunfire from Manzano, police said.
Manzano has been charged with capital murder, attempted capital murder and aggravated assault in connection with Tuesday’s shooting. He has also been charged by federal prosecutors with firearm possession violations.