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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 scene.

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 in English.

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.


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