The man accused of fatally shooting a Texas deputy sheriff execution-style at a Houston-area gas station was arraigned Monday on a capital murder charge that could bring the death penalty.
Also Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas flags be flown at half staff who honor Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, who was shot in the back while filling his cruiser Friday night.
“Texas honors our officers,” Abbott added in a tweet announcing his order.
Prosecutor Devon Anderson told Judge Denise Collins on Monday that surveillance cameras at the gas station showed a black male drive up in a red pickup, walk up behind Goforth and shoot him numerous times. Fifteen shell casings were found near the body, Anderson said. The truck’s license plate was traced to Shannon J. Miles, and his truck was found at his home.
Miles, 30, was arrested the next day. Witnesses identified him as the shooter, Anderson said. Ballistics tests matched the shell casings found at he scene to a gun owned by Miles, she said.
Collins appointed two lawyers to represent Miles, who was ordered held without bond. Miles has a history of relatively minor run-ins with police but no apparent connection to Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the department.
After the hearing, Anderson expressed appreciation to the community for their support of Goforth and law enforcement. She referenced a walk to the shooting site held Sunday and a vigil Saturday. Each drew several hundred people.
“That is what Harris County is about,” Anderson said. “This crime is not going to divide us. This crime is going to unite us.”
A makeshift memorial with balloons and flowers now adorns the shooting site. Jess Orosco was among the walkers Sunday.
“We’re standing for our community to let first responders know there are people that do care,” Orosco told KHOU-TV.
“All lives matter,” added walker Cheryl Scott. “It just happened to be in my back yard, so I’m going to do something about it. All these people are going to do something about it.”
Goforth was married with two children. His wife, Kathleen, described him as a man “you wanted for a friend, colleague, and a neighbor.” In a statement released to local media she said: “My husband was an incredibly intricate blend of toughness and gentility. He was loyal … fiercely so. And he was ethical; the right thing to do is what guided his internal compass. … He was good.”
Miles had a history of previous arrests, beginning with a 2005 conviction of criminal mischief, giving false information to police and resisting arrest, the Associated Press reported. The AP cited records showing that Miles was sentenced to several short stints in jail, anywhere from 6 to 10 days.
Hickman said there was no indication that Miles had any previous encounters with Goforth. Speaking at a Saturday news conference, Hickman called the shooting “unprovoked” and said police had found no evidence of any rationale for the attack.
“The working motive for this at this point is absolute madness,” he said. “This is just a cold blooded execution, so how do you protect against that?”
Hickman linked the shooting to a national backlash over several recent killings of unarmed black people by police officers. Goforth was white and Miles is black.
At his news conference, Hickman said the shooting could be related to “very dangerous national rhetoric” that has surfaced since the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., more than a year ago. The emergence of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign in the wake of the Ferguson case led to nationwide protests and calls for changes in police tactics and training.
“When rhetoric ramps up to the point where cold-blooded assassination has happened, this rhetoric has gotten out of control,” he said. “We heard ‘black lives matter.’ All lives matter. Well, cops’ lives matter too, so why don’t we drop the qualifier and say ‘lives matter’ and take that to the bank.”
Anderson echoed similar sentiments after the shooting.
“It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,” she said. “There are a few bad apples in any profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”