HOUSTON – Ryan Patrick, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, spoke to KPRC 2 on Thursday about the federal charges his office brought against Elmer Manzano, the man accused of killing a Houston police sergeant and wounding another officer.
“We brought two federal charges -- one for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for being an alien in possession of a firearm,” Patrick said.
Manzano, a 51-year old convicted felon, is accused of shooting and killing Houston police Sgt. Harold Preston on Tuesday morning. Manzano is also an undocumented immigrant. Federal charging documents show that as early as Saturday, Houston police knew Manzano had a gun.
“It’s not a violation of state law to be a felon or illegal alien to be in possession of ammunition," Ryan said. "Now, it is for federal law.”
The federal complaint lays out the concerns of Manzano’s estranged wife, showing that on at least two occasions before the shooting HPD was made aware that Manzano had a gun. The first incident at the Southwest Station on Saturday, then Sunday at the family’s residence. On both occasions, the wife said Manzano displayed a weapon and she feared for her life.
“The officers on the street don’t call us on those cases typically,” Patrick said.
However, HPD could have called the feds during Sunday’s visit when cops found six-bullets on Manzano, and after he told officers he did have a gun in his safe. Responding officers did a criminal background check but failed to discover his prior felony.
HPD doesn’t ask about citizenship status unless a person has been legally detained or arrested. If officers had been able to find either the prior felony or discover his undocumented status, then they could have immediately alerted the feds.
“We would have probably taken those charges, but we weren’t and 99 times out of 100 we’re not,” Patrick said.
According to Patrick, domestic violence situations are where most officers are ambushed and killed. Patrick pointed out that four out of five officers killed in his law enforcement district since last December died while responding to family disturbances.