Photos: Suspect ambushes deputy in NW Harris County
'GENTLE GIANT' GUNNED DOWNThose who knew Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth described him as a gentle giant and a man who connected with the community he patrolled.
So when news broke Aug. 28 that Goforth, 47, was executed at a northwest Harris County gas station, likely because of his badge, shockwaves shot through law enforcement officials and citizens alike.Harris County Sheriff's investigators said Goforth was filling up his patrol car at a Chevron gas station at the corner of Telge and West Road in when a man ambushed him, shooting him 15 times.
“It appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing of a police officer,” Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said the night of the murder. “It strikes us all at the heart of public service.”In his 45 years of law enforcement, Hickman said he can’t recall another incident “this cold-blooded and cowardly.”The day after Goforth was gunned down, hundreds of area residents took part in a prayer march in a grass roots show of support for law enforcement.
Thirty-year-old Shannon Miles was found the night of the murder after a four-hour search led to his home. Investigators wanted to know who owned the red truck in the driveway, which, they believed, matched the pick-up from the crime scene.
According to an affidavit for a search warrant, a homicide investigator “immediately observed similar physical characteristics,” including “size, hair style and skin tone” between Miles and the shooter who had been seen on surveillance video at the gas station.Miles was formally charged with killing Goforth on Aug. 30, two days after the deputy was gunned down."This is an act of cowardice and brutality, the likes of which I've never seen," said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. "We will use all our resources to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law."
Miles, a former football player for Cypress Falls High School, has a lengthy criminal record that dates back 10 years. The rap sheet includes six previous arrests: two for using force against an officer, including another Harris County Sheriff's deputy.
'THERE ARE NO WORDS...'Goforth's wife, Kathleen, released a statement a day after her husband was killed, saying:
"There are no words for this. All the language that I know is inadequate for what I want to express. But for Darren, I will try. I can't describe him with cliches and platitudes. My husband was an incredibly intricate blend of toughness and gentility. He was loyal...fiercely so. And he was ethical; the right thing to do is what guided his internal compass. I admired this quality, perhaps, the most. For that was what made Darren good. And he was good. So, if people want to know the kind of man he was...This is it. He was who you wanted for a friend, a colleague, and a neighbor. However, it was I who was blessed so richly that I had the privilege of calling him my husband and my best friend. - Kathleen Goforth"Hundreds gathered the day after Deputy Goforth was gunned down to grieve and pray for the officer and his family. As news of the deputy's murder spread throughout the country, a shrine grew around the gas pump where he died. Visitors left flowers, balloons and handmade tributes in Goforth's memory.
Photos: Makeshift memorial for fallen deputy
"I've talked to him several times about his family," said Brian McCullar, who lives in one of the subdivisions near the crime scene. "I know that they just recently got back from a vacation. I know he couldn't wait to go on vacation with his family."Several of the people who came to the pay their respects were especially disturbed by the sudden and mysterious circumstances surrounding the deputy's death.
A couple of past and present law enforcement officers echoed that concern, pointing out that the murder had no apparent motive.
Photos: Prayer walk for Deputy Darren Goforth
"You go on duty and you expect the unexpected," said McCullar, a former deputy constable. "But when you're going off duty and you're filling up your patrol car? I don't think that you're expecting that."Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement that said "acts of violence against our brave law enforcement in Texas will not be tolerated."
'GOFORTH WAS DIFFERENT'Twenty-year-old Kenny Nguyen had numerous run-ins with Goforth as the deputy patrolled Nguyen's neighborhood--both friendly and official.Through their encounters, Goforth became a deputy that Nguyen grew to trust.
"I met a lot of cops in my life and usually I don't like 95 percent of them,” Nguyen said. “But Goforth was different; there was just a vibe he threw out. I never disrespected him."In one encounter, Nguyen shot cell phone video in which you can hear Goforth's voice as he jokes around with Nguyen. It was a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding, Nguyen says. But when it came time to enforce the law, Nguyen knew Goforth always meant business.
That time came for Nguyen in June 2015 when Goforth busted him for criminal mischief for running through a gate with his car at the entrance of his neighborhood."I remember back in the day I used to do a lot of bad things, and he was always the officer on duty," Nguyen said. "After four years, he finally busted me. He slapped cuffs on me and said, 'You know how long I've been waiting for this?' I laughed and said, 'I know, I know."
Photos: Remembering Deputy Darren Goforth
BACKING THE BLUEKathleen Goforth said in a release she's in awe of the community's support.
“It is to everyone that I say thank you. Thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and support…in whatever form it came. All was deeply appreciated; every last one. And finally, thank you for uniting together to honor my husband and the best man I’ve ever known…Darren.”Law enforcement officers and citizens from across the nation were among 11,000 people who gathered for Goforth's funeral on Sept. 4.
Photos: Dramatic scenes outside Goforth memorial
Before she walked into Second Baptist Church, Kathleen took a moment to look at all the deputies and officers standing in her honor. With her thin blue line tattoo on her left arm, she saluted them in return.With Goforth's flag-draped casket at the foot of the massive church stage, a childhood friend talked about a gentle soul, who became a deputy at the age of 37, searching for a better way to take care of his family.
"He was just a very likeable good guy and I will say this: He will be missed," said Lt. Rolando De Los Santos, a friend since childhood. "I'm gonna miss him greatly."De Los Santos told the touching story of the matching Captain America shirts Goforth and his son planned to wear together. Instead, Goforth was buried with his shirt under his uniform. His 5-year-old son wore his to the funeral.
Photos: End of Watch Ceremony for Deputy Goforth
"Darren Goforth was one of the good guys, one that made a difference," Hickman said.Hickman had a special message for Goforth's widow and two children.
"Darren's life was not taken in vain. Tonight, as we watch over the sleeping residents of Harris County, or as our radio rings out, we will answer that call in Darren's honor," Hickman said.The outpouring of support for the fallen deputy, his family and his fellow law enforcement officers, wasn't restricted to the emotional service inside Second Baptist Church. Outside, a traffic jam persisted long after the service began, ironically putting deputies to work handling the crowd coming to honor Goforth.
Photos: Volunteers organize community march for Deputy Darren Goforth
Law enforcement officers from all over America packed into Second Baptist Church to remember their fellow fallen deputy. One look at the patches on their shoulders showed nearly every major law enforcement agency was represented, including a group of 50 police officers who drove in from Dallas.“We wanted to pay our respects to the family for the sacrifice that Deputy Goforth made for the citizens of Texas and this country,” said Officer Ron Pinkston with the Dallas Police Officer’s Union.
“Upstate New York … smaller city, but with everything going on, making the trip down and show our support,” said Mike Uhl with the Rome Police Department. “This poor guy is pumping gas, going home, and wasn’t even on call—it’s just horrible, absolutely horrible.”During the service, Harris County Sheriff's Chaplain Sgt. Shannon Bowdoin talked about Kathleen wishes for her husband's memory.
"We are not going to focus on revenge or getting even or repercussions or anything of that nature," said Sgt. Shannon Bowdoin, HCSO chaplain. "What she wants to focus on is ... healing this family, the sheriff's office, the law enforcement community and the nation as a whole."And to rousing applause, Bowdoin promised the deputy's death will become a rallying cry for every man and woman in blue.
#BLUEHOUSTONHarris County Sheriff's Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was stunned by the community response following his friend and mentor's death.
"He is one of the reasons I am in uniform today," Dhaliwal said. "It's very personal for me."Dhaliwal was first on the scene the night Goforth was killed.
He and his fellow deputies have been amazed at the outpouring of support at the memorial and throughout the community with trees adorned with blue ribbons.