Attorney for man accused in HPD Sgt. Sean Rios' death requests probe be turned over to Texas Rangers

Attorney Paul Looney speaks about the arrest of his client, Robert Soliz, during a news conference in Bellville, Texas, on Nov. 11, 2020. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – The attorney of a man accused in the shooting of a Houston police sergeant sent a formal request to turn the investigation into the shooting over to the Texas Rangers.

The request was sent to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Monday by attorney Paul Looney, who is representing Robert Soliz.

Soliz is charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Houston Police Department Sgt. Sean Rios. Soliz is being held in jail on a $700,000 bond.

The suspect charged with the murder of Sgt. Rios was back in court Thursday morning. Robert Soliz, 24, made his second court appearance. (KPRC 2)
Robert Soliz, as seen in this mugshot from Nov. 11, 2020. (Houston Police Department)
Robert Soliz (left) is seen after his arrest in Houston on Nov. 10, 2020. A second person of interest (right) is seen in surveillance camera images released by the Houston Police Department on Nov. 10, 2020. (HPD/Law enforcement source)

A second man, described by police as “a person of extreme interest,” is being sought in connection with the case.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo.

Chief Art Acevedo

Houston Police Department

1200 Travis Street

Houston, TX 77002

RE: Robert Soliz/Sean Rios case

Chief Acevedo:

I am writing to formally request that the investigation into the shooting of Sean Rios be turned over to the Texas Rangers. I do not believe that you or your department intend to do anything improper here, but I do believe that the appearance of bias is unavoidable under these circumstances, and that it is in everybody’s interests that any such appearance be removed. I have nothing but respect for what you’ve done with the Houston Police Department during your tenure, but considering that Sgt. Rios was a Houston Police Department officer, and two of his cousins continue to work there, it is difficult to believe that emotions are not running high. We all recognize that emotions can color a person’s judgment, and this case should be investigated dispassionately. It is normal under these circumstances for an outside agency to conduct the investigation. Jurisdictions all over the country, and especially here in Texas, routinely turn officer involved shooting cases over to outside agencies, which in Texas means the Texas Rangers. There is no indication that the Rangers have ever done anything but an excellent job in such cases. There is no downside to turning this case over to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are amply trained, equipped, prepared, and funded to conduct this investigation. All that is lost is the opportunity for the impartiality of the Houston Police Department to be called into question unnecessarily. This is a good time for the Houston Police Department to turn this case over to the professionals in the Texas Rangers, and allow for the facts to come to light without the inevitable filters that arise when an agency investigates the deaths of one of its own. If this had been an altercation between two civilians, it is difficult to believe that the sorts of public statements we are seeing from your Department would be released. We are troubled by reading statements that Sgt. Rios was acting in the line of duty. There is no evidence Robert Soliz ever believed or, had reason to believe Sgt. Rios was a police officer. The officers did not recognize Sgt. Rios as an officer at the scene. Sgt. Rios was not in a police vehicle, was not in uniform, was not displaying a badge, and was not using his service weapon.

Mr. Soliz desperately· wants the facts to come out. And Mr. Soliz believes an independent investigation will show that he was not the instigator of this incident, and that all he knew was that an armed man he did not recognize was coming at him with a gun pointed at him - and he defended himself.

Turning this case over to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division is not an effective answer, as under that scenario HPD would continue to conduct the investigation. The District Attorney’s Office does not have laboratories or crime scene units. They rely on police agencies to provide them with the physical evidence and initial interviews with witnesses. To the extent that all of that comes from the Houston Police Department, the investigation into this case will still suffer from the same conflict of interest.

There is no downside to turning this case over to the Texas Rangers. Best practices should be followed, and the best practice in this scenario call for the Houston Police Department to tum this case over to the professionals in the Texas Rangers, and allow for the facts to come to light without the conflicts of interest and emotion that risk undermining this investigation.


Paul C. Looney

CC: Mayor Sylvester Turner, District Attorney Kim Ogg

Acevedo previously issued a written statement, 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.”

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.