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Statements from Police Chief Hurtt on Investigations

January 10, 2007 -- The Houston Police Department has committed all resources at our disposal to fully investigate two separate fatal shootings of citizens, one at 5018 Curtin on Sunday (Jan. 7) and the other at 4600 Knoxville on Monday (Jan. 8).

The loss of human life is always regrettable, regardless of the circumstances.

I want to assure the community we will conduct thorough investigations in both cases and leave no stones unturned. Both incidents will be examined and I, along with my command staff, will determine what steps, if any, to help prepare for similar events using the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish our objective.

Each time an officer or officers respond to a call, circumstances dictate what decisions officers and supervisors make to bring the incident to a peaceful conclusion. We review our tactics and decisions in an effort to continually improve our response. A preliminary review of Sunday's incident at 5018 Curtin indicates that officers entered the residence to help bring Mr. Esparza into custody and eventually to a facility for treatment. Several options were considered to bring Mr. Esparza safely into custody. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer was called to the scene and did in fact communicate with Mr. Esparza in an attempt to talk him out of the house. An on-scene supervisor was in contact with our SWAT commander to discuss the facts of what officers were dealing with at the time. The SWAT commander advised a supervisor at the scene on a plan of action for entering the residence
utilizing officers' intermediate weapons (bean bag rounds, Tasers, etc) to safely resolve the situation.

In reviewing this incident, future decisions in similar calls will likely involve us using our SWAT and/or Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) more frequently, in addition to utilizing our CIT officers. We are committed to our CIT program and have more than 600 police officers who've received specialized training above and beyond any police agency in this country in deescalating confrontations with the mentally ill. We were told the Esparza family had made several unsuccessful attempts to get Mr. Esparza adequate mental health care. To that end, we support efforts to ensure that adequate funding is made available to area mental health agencies.

We welcome the Harris County District Attorney's independent investigations into the two shooting incidents. Regardless of the outcomes, citizens should know we will be transparent in our findings and make any necessary corrective actions including revisions in tactics and training deemed necessary and appropriate to end similar situations peacefully.


For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.