Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo: The biggest events of his career with HPD

Houston's top cop will be leaving soon to start his new journey as chief of Miami PD

HOUSTON – Art Acevedo was sworn into office as Houston Police Chief on November 30, 2016. He was appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner. He is the first Hispanic chief to lead HPD.

During his time in office, Houston has seen more than a few highs and lows. Here are some of the most memorable events the city has experienced during Acevedo’s tenure.

Hurricane Harvey

The historic storm hit the Houston area from Aug. 17, 2017 through Sept. 2, 2017. Acevedo was at the center of the storm response, dispatching officers to help Houstonians who were trapped in their homes. Houston police lost an officer – Sgt. Steve Albert Perez -- who drowned in the response.

In the years after the storm, Houston response efforts ramped up with the purchase of more rescue boats and other high-profile vehicles.

Harding Street raid

The Jan. 28, 2019, police operation called a drug raid resulted in the deaths of homeowners Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, and their dog.

Five officers were injured in the raid.

Since the raid, 12 current and former officers were charged as part of the investigation. Former Officer Gerald Goines was accused of using bogus information to get the warrant that led to the raid. Two people were charged with murder -- Goines and SWAT Officer Felipe Gallegos. Other officers are accused of tampering with evidence and stealing overtime. A woman accused of making a series of fake 911 calls, setting into motion the events that led to the Harding Street police raid, pleaded guilty in the case.

A federal lawsuit also accuses HPD of allowing problem officers to go unchecked through a lack of proper oversight.

Read more on the audit after the Harding Street raid.

Many civil rights and police reform activists said what happened on Harding Street further highlights the need for outside oversight.

World Series

The Houston Astros went to the World Series twice during Acevedo’s tenure. Houston police helped coordinate celebration efforts for the win, including a massive parade and celebration in Downtown Houston in November 2017.

HPD officer deaths

Six Houston police officers lost their lives while Acevedo has been in office.

Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal, Jr. died as a result of COVID-19 on Nov. 27, 2020.

Sgt. Sean Sebastian Rios died on Nov. 9, 2020 in a gun battle on the North Freeway.

Sgt. Harold L. Preston died after he was shot multiple times responding to a domestic disturbance call near NRG on Oct. 20, 2020.

Officer Jason Knox died in a helicopter crash on May 2, 2020.

Sgt. Christopher Charles Lewis Brewster died on Dec. 7, 2019. He was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence incident.

Sergeant Steve Albert Perez died on Aug. 27, 2017. He drowned after his patrol car was caught in floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Death of Nicolas Chavez

A total of 24 shots were fired at 27-year-old Nicolas Chavez who was killed on April 21, 2020. Police said they believed the 27-year-old had a “pointed object” and charged at officers. A cellphone video recorded by a witness appeared to show Chavez on his knees when he was shot by officers.

Acevedo said he couldn’t defend what happened, though he added that the incident was very dynamic and, for the most part, the officers acted in a manner consistent with their training. He said the officers were trying to deescalate the situation and get Chavez to comply with their commands. Read Acevedo’s response to the controversial arrest.

Four officers were fired following the shooting.

Pushing for bond reform

Acevedo has been a vocal critic of bond reform along with victims’ advocates throughout his time as Houston police chief. He has decried the system which allows those accused of crimes to be released on multiple bonds.

“We have people that have been booked for murder, charged with murder, released while charged with murder and murdering again,” said Acevedo in 2020.

“What are your officers saying on the streets,” KPRC 2′s Robert Arnold asked.

“They’re frustrated,” said Acevedo. “The proof is in the real victims in this city that are dying at the hands of people that should not have been running around loose.”

George Floyd, summer of protest

Acevedo led the Houston police efforts to honor George Floyd. Floyd’s body received a security escort from HPD.

Acevedo was outspoken about Floyd’s death, condemning the officers’ actions.

He also walked with protesters and met with attendees of protests in Houston.

Some of Acevedo’s statements about protest agitators led to a KPRC investigation into his claims, which we found to be false.

Houston police officer named in Capitol riot

During a news conference following the Capitol riot in Washington, D.C., Acevedo disclosed that a Houston officer had taken part in the riot. The officer, Tam Dinh Pham, eventually resigned from the force.

Deadly winter storm in Texas

Acevedo oversaw the department during the deadly winter storm that ravaged the Houston area, leaving many without power and/or water. He called the situation a “catastrophic failure” on “TODAY.”

Acevedo was highly critical of power officials in the state, noting that those that fared well during the storm were not on the deregulated Texas grid.

High homicide numbers

Houston has experienced a recent spike in homicides.

The number of homicides in Houston in 2020 are the highest they have been in at least 15 years.

The situation continues into 2021, with higher than previous years’ numbers to date. For instance, on March 10, 2020, there were 59 homicides to date, whereas in 2021, there are 79, according to HPD’s public information officer.

What will you remember most about Acevedo’s tenure? Let us know in the comments.

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.