Spike in U.S. Police Officer Deaths, 4 Killed in Houston Last Year

Since December 2019, 4 Houston police officers have been killed in the line of duty. Two of those deaths came within the last 2 months of 2020.

Most recently, Sergeant Sean Rios (47), a 25-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, was killed. It’s believed he came across a road rage shooting-in-progress while on his way to work at the George Bush International Airport.

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said, “there’s a high probability that Sgt. Rios saw that incident between those two vehicles and tried to intervene.” Rios was shot multiple times and retreated to a nearby motel where he succumbed to his injuries.

Rios’ death marks the 43rd law enforcement officer to die on duty this year, which is a 19 percent increase over last year.

The 3 other Houston police officers and a Houston firefighter who died in the line of duty since December are:

  • Sergeant Harold Preston (65). Sgt. Preston was shot on October 20, 2020, while responding to a call for domestic violence.
  • Officer Jason Knox (35) was killed in a helicopter crash on May 2, 2020.
  • Sergeant Christopher Brewster (32) was killed on December 7, 2019, while responding to a domestic violence call.
  • Lemuel Bruce, an arson investigator for the Houston Fire Department, was shot while investigating a series of arson fires.

In Texas, assaulting or killing a police officer (or another public servant) is a serious violent crime. Under Texas Penal Code §22.01(b)(1), assaulting a police officer while they’re on duty is a third-degree felony.

Sentence for assault on an officer

Since assaulting an officer is a felony, a defendant should expect to receive more serious penalties and/or jail time than a misdemeanor assault. Penalties include jail time from 2 to 10 years, as well as fines upward of $10,000.

Of course, these are just the baseline penalties. Depending on the severity of the incident, the penalties could be higher.

Additionally, defendants guilty of assaulting a police officer can also face second-degree felony charges. These carry penalties of 2 to 20 years in prison and fines upward of $10,000 as well as first-degree felony charges, which means 5 years to life in prison and a fine.

Defenses for assault on an officer

Self-defense is the most common defense for a defendant facing charges of assaulting an officer. This defense is likely when an officer could be accused of exerting excessive force while arresting the defendant.

However, self-defense is hard to prove unless the defendant’s attorney can secure sufficient evidence for their client. Moreover, using the self-defense strategy means that the defendant must have truly felt that their life was in danger.

Given that assaulting a police officer is a more serious infraction than assaulting another person, it’s that much more important for a defendant facing assault charges to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp, we can start with a free consultation of your case and work to ensure your rights are protected.