HPD Statement on Shooting Incident at 5018 Curtin
April 27, 2007 - The January 7, 2007 officer-involved shooting incident that resulted in the death of Mr. Omar Esparza was presented to a Harris County grand jury and it returned a “NO BILL” decision for this case. The grand jury was presented with the evidence collected through the homicide investigation and the independent investigation of the Harris County District Attorney’s Police Integrity Division. The grand jury examined the evidence and listened to the testimony of the witnesses involved in this tragic case in reaching its decision.
The evidence in this case showed the officers were acting in good faith in an attempt to bring a dangerous situation under control. The evidence showed that Omar Esparza, 21, was behaving in an irrational and violent manner as evident by the fact he armed himself with a hammer and used it to break the back door window and knock off the door handle and lock from one of the bedroom doors. His actions were serious enough that his family retreated from the house at 5018 Curtin and called 9-1-1. When the officers arrived, and made face to face contact with Omar Esparza, he threatened to hit the officers in the head with the hammer and door lock.
Five different officers, including a supervisor and one officer trained with Crisis Intervention techniques, talked with Omar Esparza for approximately two hours in an attempt to get him to drop his weapons and get the situation under control, however; that failed. In an attempt to get control of the situation, a plan was devised to enter the residence with the intention of using the minimum force necessary to gain control of the situation. In executing their plan, the officers gave verbal commands to Omar Esparza, asking him to drop the hammer. Esparza refused to obey. When Omar Esparza began moving toward the officers with the hammer in a threatening manner, the first response by the officers was the use of a non-lethal weapon, the soft impact weapon. Despite hitting Esparza three times with beanbag rounds, he continued to advance on the officers with the hammer. Again, the officers responded to the threat using a non-lethal device, a conducted energy device. Unfortunately, Esparza was moving and the darts from the device missed him and hit the wall. As Omar Esparza continued to advance toward the officers with the hammer, the last resort was the use of the officer’s duty weapon to stop him.
A claw hammer is undoubtedly a deadly weapon when used in the manner described. The fact Omar Esparza had apparently prepared himself for a confrontation with the police was evident by his dress, five shirts, four pairs of pants/shorts, with three towels wrapped around his neck; and the number of weapons found in his possession, specifically a hammer, knife sharpener, broken door knob, and a battery wrapped in a belt.
Our sympathy is with Omar Esparza's family. The Houston Police Department holds the sanctity of human life above all else and it is in fact one of our core values. We also realize the authority to police our community is granted to us by the very public we serve. This trust to act appropriately and judiciously is something we take very seriously and hold dear. However, we recognize that our officers have the right to protect themselves when faced with a serious threat to their safety or the safety of others.
We appreciate the time and effort made by the Harris County District Attorney’s office to conduct its own independent investigation and the time and effort the Grand Jury took to examine the evidence. We are continuing to examine the facts of this case as it relates to Department policies and that investigation is still in progress through the Internal Affairs Division.
information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at