HOUSTON – A Harris County judge acquitted a former Houston Police officer in the death of a 71-year-old man in a November 2020 crash.
Matthew Valdez was found innocent of the criminally negligent homicide charge on Tuesday.
In January 2021, Valdez resigned from The Houston Police Department after being relieved of duty, according to an HPD spokesperson.
Surveillance video from a nearby gas station shows Walter Cooper, who was driving a black Cadillac, approach a stop sign at Darien Street and Ley Road in northeast Houston, and then drive into the intersection to cross Ley.
At that same moment, the video shows an HPD SUV traveling westbound on Ley Road, the two officers inside responding to a weapon disturbance call. The impact from the patrol vehicle sent Cooper’s car across the street and into the gas station parking lot.
Investigators said Valdez was driving 90 mph in a 35 mph zone and that he did not have lights or sirens on.
In court Monday, prosecutors revealed Valdez was not dispatched to the call and volunteered to respond as a backup.
The defense and prosecutors questioned several HPD officers who were dispatched to the initial call about whether they were allowed to use lights and sirens during calls that were classified as priority/code 2.
“The police officer was driving 90 mph in a 35 mph zone at the time, and did not have his emergency lights or siren on, so we felt this was an important case to present to jurors,” said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. “Our hearts go out to the family of Walter Cooper.”