HOUSTON, Texas – Seventy-three people have lost their lives at the hands of another person in Houston, Texas during the first quarter of 2015. This represents an increase in Houston homicides of 59 percent compared to the same timeframe in 2014 according to information from the Houston Police Department (HPD).
Michael Wartell was one of the random victims of the increased rate of homicides in the Bayou City, according to an article by Anita Hassan in the Houston Chronicle. Wartel was sitting outside the laundry mat near his fifth ward home on Houston’s southeast side when he was struck by a bullet that was fired during an argument between two other men standing nearby. The 62-year-old Army veteran lay dead in the washeteria.
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, like many big city chiefs of police, has been beating the drum against handguns. In March, Breitbart Texas reported that Chief McClelland sent one of his assistant police chiefs to Austin to speak out against a bill that would allow law-abiding citizens who have a concealed handgun license to openly carry a handgun.
“I think we are too quick to settle differences, arguments and confrontations with handguns,” McClelland told reporters in March. “That’s a larger societal problem and we need to rethink how we redo conflict resolution, starting in kindergarten and going all the way up to the university level.”
HPD officials said that in most of these murder cases, the victim knew there killer. The department was not able to provide any other information about the motives behind the increased number of murders this year.
The Chronicle spoke to Larry Hoover, head of Sam Houston University’s Police Research Center in Huntsville, Texas. He said it is not unusual to see significant fluctuation in these types of crimes.
“Homicide in particular is not very predictive,” he said. “You do get substantial fluctuations.”
He said these numbers should be a red flag for law enforcement officials, but that the general public should not be alarmed.
McClelland said homicide is a crime that is difficult to prevent. He said murder is usually motivated by passion or money and is a complex crime that is difficult for police to combat. “There is very little that Houston police officers can do to intervene in an apartment complex inside someone’s bedroom or inside someone’s living room when two or three people get into a heated argument,” he said.
He also blamed the high risk behavior of some of the victims of these murders. These behaviors include drug traffickers who operate in Houston. “People who want drugs need money, people who have drugs want to sell them for money, people who have money to buy drugs carry guns, people who sell drugs that want more money carry guns,” he said. “It’s a dangerous combination.”
In the unincorporated areas of Harris County surrounding the city of Houston, murders rose by thirty percent during the same period. This compares to the Houston increase of fifty-nine percent. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said that nearly half of the murders in the county were connected to robberies. The Sheriff’s Office has moved more of its resources towards robbery investigations.
Then there are the purely random shootings. Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported in February about the senseless murders of Spencer Golvach and Juan Garcia. The two men were shot and killed by a criminal illegal alien who had been previously deported and had reentered the United States. These men were killed in a random shooting spree, carried out by Victor Manuel Reyes. The shoter also fired random shots at other people before being chased down and killed by a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy who heard the shots being fired.
While these two killings were not part of the numbers reported above because they occurred just a few hours before the end of 2014, they are indicative of some of the random acts of violence that plague this city. In February, Houston and Missouri City police investigators conducted a manhunt for a suspect involved in a series of random shootings that left at least one man dead and many others terrorized.
Police are still looking for the shooter described as a light-skinned black or mixed-race male. He appears to be in his 30’s, stocky with a moustache and goatee. He was driving a black Jeep Cherokee.