Elmer Manzano, accused of killing HPD Sgt. Harold Preston, facing capital murder charge
Elmer Manzano, accused of killing HPD Sgt. Harold Preston, facing capital murder charge

By Samantha Ketterer
Houston Chronicle

Oct. 21—An El Salvadoran man living in Houston has been charged in state and federal court related to Tuesday’s shooting death of a Houston police officer.

Elmer Manzano, 51, is in the hospital but is being held on state charges of capital murder of a police officer, attempted capital murder of a police officer and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, court records show.

U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick also announced Wednesday afternoon that his office was charging Manzano with being an alien in possession of a firearm and a felon in possession of a firearm, with more charges possible.

He is accused of killing Sgt. Harold Preston during a shootout at his apartment, where the officer was watching over the alleged gunman’s estranged wife as she planned to leave the residence.

When his son opened the door, gunfire erupted. Manzano shot the 41-year HPD veteran in the head and wounded Officer Courtney Waller in the arm, police said. He and the son also sustained injuries.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has already filed a motion to deny bail on all of the offenses. In a proposed order to be signed by a judge, prosecutors wrote that Manzano would “probably be punished by the death penalty if the law was administered.”

He is also a flight risk, they said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed an immigration hold on Manzano, an El Salvadoran “convicted criminal alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.,” agency officials said in a statement.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 ended a program known as 287(g), which partnered with ICE to train a team of county deputies to determine the immigration status of jailed suspects and hold those selected for deportation.

But since the implementation of Senate Bill 4 later that year, the sheriff’s office has allowed ICE space for their own agents to work in the jail. SB4 outlawed “sanctuary cities” by mandating that local police work with federal immigration authorities and allowing that them to ask about detainees’ immigration statuses.

Houston is not a sanctuary city, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has criticized SB4 and said his department would focused on law enforcement, not the Legislature’s priorities.

The sheriff’s office, which manages the jail, cooperates with ICE in that it allows them to screen people after they are booked in the lockup, spokesman Jason Spencer said. When that person is released, the sheriff’s office then notifies ICE.

“If we had any reason to be releasing him, they would have the opportunity to place a claim on him, a detainer, and take custody of him before he stepped out of the jail,” Spencer said.

The shooting closely followed three domestic violence complaints involving Manzano, and Waller encountered the former couple during the complaints on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Manzano has convictions dating back to the early 2000s in Texas. He was convicted on two misdemeanor assault charges lodged in 2000 in Dallas County, at least one of which was domestic violence-related, according to records. Probation on both of those charges was revoked in 2003.

In 2002, Manzano pleaded guilty to a charge of felony evading arrest in Harris County.

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