'Lives matter,' sheriff urges as 1,000 march for slain officer in Houston

by Gregory Tomlin |

(KTRK TV/Screengrab)A makeshift memorial honors fallen Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, who was shot to death Friday, Aug. 28, while pumping gas into his patrol car.

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – A thousand people turned out Sunday for a march from two Houston-area churches to a gas station where a Harris County sheriff's deputy was executed while pumping gas Aug. 28.

The marchers set out from Crossbridge Church in Sugarland and West Houston Church of Christ, finally reaching the gas station where the incident occurred near sundown.

Organizers of the march expected several hundred people to show, but in the end nearly 1,000 people laid cards, flowers, balloons and other memorials at the gas pump where the deputy was slain -- and prayed aloud for his family and for their community.

On Friday, Deputy Darren Goforth was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range while fueling his patrol car. He was shot several more times while on the ground and died at the scene.

(REUTERS/Harris County Texas/Handout via Reuters)Deputy Darren Goforth is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the Harris County Sheriff's office, August 29, 2015.

The suspect in the case, Shannon Jaruay Miles, 30, was apprehended at his home less than a mile from the site of the shooting. He has a record of misdemeanor arrests that date back to 2005, but no felonies.

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said all of the facts in the case were not yet known and the suspect had not spoken about a motive, but he speculated Goforth was a target of opportunity for Miles, who was looking for a police officer to kill.

"At this point," Sheriff Ron Hickman said in a press conference following the incident, "he was only targeted because he was wearing a uniform."

Hickman also said the deputy apparently had no previous contact with the suspect so the attack was "clearly unprovoked."

The sheriff speculated, however, that the rhetoric of the national protest movements over the death of several unarmed black men at the hands of white (and in some cases, black) police officers have anti-police sentiments and racial tensions at an all-time high.

"When the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen, this rhetoric has gotten out of control," Hickman said at the press conference.

"We have heard 'black lives matter,' 'all lives matter.' Well, cops' lives matter, too," Hickman said. "Why don't we just drop the qualifier and say, 'lives matter?' Take that to the bank."

Goforth, who had served on the force for 10 years and leaves behind a wife and two children, was white. Miles is black.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement after the shooting. He said "heinous and deliberate crimes against law enforcement will not be tolerated in the State of Texas."

"Texas reveres the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities," Abbott said.