‘Emotions run hot’: Attorney of suspect in HPD sergeant’s slaying wants case investigated by outside agency

BELLVILLE, Texas – An attorney representing the man who has been charged in connection with the death of a Houston police sergeant earlier this week said Wednesday that the way his client was arrested shows that the Houston Police Department is the wrong agency to investigate the case.

Robert Soliz, 24, was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in connection with Monday’s slaying of HPD Sgt. Sean Rios, a 25-year veteran of the department, along the North Freeway.

Attorney Paul Looney said he had been in contact with law enforcement officials on Tuesday, who were aware that he was driving to Houston to turn Soliz, his client, over to authorities. Looney said that while he was driving on Interstate 10 Katy Freeway, he was surrounded by a fleet of law enforcement vehicles that forced him to pull over. He said that a “sea of shotguns” was pointed at him and Soliz before they took Soliz into custody.

Looney said that action indicates that HPD is not the agency that should be investigating the case.

“Whenever you are that close to the situation, your emotions run hot and your logic runs short,” Looney said.

Looney said he believes the Harris County Sheriff’s Office or the Texas Rangers, the state’s investigative agency, should take over the case.

“When it is referred to a neutral agency without a conflict of interest, the quality skyrockets,” Looney said. “All any of us want here is the right thing to be done.”

Investigators said they believe Rios was killed during a shootout while intervening in an earlier exchange of gunfire between two vehicles on the freeway.

Looney said he does not believe Houston police have any evidence thus far that would warrant the arrest of his client, who he has known since he was a child. He said he believes Soliz is innocent of murder and that Soliz and Rios never encountered each other before Monday.

“This is not going to play out the way it has been portrayed,” Looney said.

Looney said that he has not spoken to Houston police Chief Art Acevedo about his request for a third-party agency to conduct the investigation, but he has spoken to several members of law enforcement about it.

Looney said he is also in the process of conducting his own investigation and that he has “confidential” information about the case that he won’t share because HPD doesn’t have it yet.

Acevedo issued a written statement Wednesday night, saying his department is committed to a fair investigation. His full statement follows:

“The Houston Police Department is aware of the concerns raised by the defense attorney representing the suspect charged in the shooting death of Sergeant Sean Rios.  Our department is committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation. Moreover, the Civil Rights Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is conducting a parallel, independent investigation.”

Soliz appeared in court Wednesday, where his bond was set at $500,000.

A second man, who police described as a “person of extreme interest,” is being sought in connection with Rios' death.

You can watch a replay of Looney’s news conference below.

The attorney representing Robert Soliz speaks about his client's arrest and the case.
The attorney representing Robert Soliz speaks about his client's arrest and the case.

About the Authors:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow-award winning reporter. Believer, father of five, Ironman finisher. Yo hablo Español.