Chief Hurtt Updates Status on Shooting Investigation
at 5018 Curtain
January 24, 2007 -- The Homicide
Division is close to completing its investigation into the tragic
shooting of Omar Esparza by a Houston police officer. As promised,
I want to release some of the information discovered during this
phase of the investigation. As you are aware, the incident began
on January 7th, at 3:14 p.m. when Esparza’s parents dialed
911 asking for police assistance.
The 911 tapes revealed that Mr. Jose Valle, Esparza’s
father, initially called the police and then handed the phone
to his wife. She asked for help stating, “We’re not
able to go inside the house at this moment because he is destroying
the house.” The operator asked if her son had any weapons
and she stated, “He has a hammer right now in his hands
and he’s destroying the house with the hammer. He has another
metal object in his pocket, you know, the one you sharpen knives
with…” She also reported that Esparza would react
violently if he was contradicted and stated that he was talking
to himself and that she believed he “overdosed.” This
conversation was in Spanish with a Spanish speaking call taker.
Officers were dispatched to 5018 Curtain and
advised that the reportee was having a disturbance with her son,
who had a hammer in his hand and was destroying the residence
and was very violent.
The officers arrived at 3:25 p.m. and contacted
Mr. Valle and his wife, who were outside of the residence, behind
the fence. They never entered the residence while the officers
were on the scene. A Spanish speaking officer talked with them
and was told that Esparza needed to go to the hospital and had
a hammer and had broken the back door window. They told the officers
that they had been trying to get their son into a psychiatric
hospital, but that there was no room.
The officers made contact with Esparza and began
talking with him through the front door, trying to get him to
put the hammer down and defuse the situation. Esparza refused
to comply with the officers and repeatedly threatened to hit the
officers with the hammer. A police sergeant was called to the
scene and he also talked with Esaparza in an attempt to defuse
the situation and get Esparza under control. When this failed,
the sergeant called for a trained CIT (Crisis Intervention Team)
officer to respond to the scene. The CIT officer responded and
also talked with Esparza in an attempt to calm him down and gain
control of the situation. All of these efforts failed and Esparza
continued to demonstrate an agitated and paranoid demeanor. By
this time, the officers had been talking with Esparza for approximately
2 hours without any success.
The sergeant called the Command Center and reported
the situation to them. At this point, the Command Center called
the SWAT Commander on the phone and requested that he call the
sergeant at the scene. The sergeant briefed the SWAT Commander
on the situation and the SWAT Commander recommended that the sergeant
organize an apprehension team before entering the house in an
attempt to gain control of Esparza. SWAT did not respond to the
After talking with Esparza for over two hours
without any success, the sergeant organized the apprehension team
and they entered the residence through an unlocked side door.
The officers entered the residence at approximately 5:15 p.m.
in an attempt to gain control of Esparza. Upon entering, the officers
ordered Esparza to drop the hammer, but he refused and charged
at them. The communication between the officers and Esparza was
The sergeant fired the soft impact weapon (bean
bag) at Esparza, striking him three times. However, the rounds
did not have any effect on Esparza and he continued to move toward
the officers with the hammer raised over his head.
An officer then fired his Taser at Esparza, but
the Taser darts missed him and struck the wall. Esparza continued
to move toward the officers with the hammer raised over his head.
At this point the cover officer, being in fear for his safety
and the safety of the sergeant, fired his duty weapon at Esaparza,
striking him three times.
The officer immediately called for an ambulance
and the Emergency Communications records indicate an ambulance
was dispatched at 5:21 p.m., arriving at 5:26 p.m..
Homicide investigators were notified of the officer-involved
shooting at 5:30 p.m. and arrived at the scene at approximately
6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., the homicide investigators contacted Esparza’s
parents and advised them that their son had been killed.
The homicide investigation discovered sufficient
evidence to prove that Esparza was behaving in a violent and unpredictable
manner, and that he was armed with a hammer and threatened to
hit the officers with it. The officers entered the residence in
an attempt to apprehend Esparza, however he refused to comply
with their commands to drop the weapon, and in fact charged at
them in a threatening manner. In an attempt to protect themselves,
the officers used less than lethal force. First, they attempted
to stop Esparza with a soft impact weapon, but it did not have
any effect. Next, they deployed a Taser in an attempt to stop
him, but it too was unsuccessful. Finally, as a last resort, they
were forced to use deadly force to stop Esparza from hitting the
officers with the hammer. I extend my sincere condolences to the
family of Omar Esparza, but we must also recognize the dangers
that our officers face when handling these types of incidents.
information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at