Man who walked into fire station quizzed on constable ambush

Alden Clopton
The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — Investigators questioned a man Thursday fitting the description of a gunman who authorities say ambushed a Texas deputy constable from behind following a traffic stop and gravely injured him.

The man showed up at a nearby fire station following the shooting, Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said. No other information was released about him including what he may have told fire personnel when he appeared.

The man has not been arrested or charged, Smith said, adding that authorities were not actively looking for anyone else.

Authorities said Harris County Deputy Constable Alden Clopton was wearing a protective vest when he was shot four times from behind late Wednesday as the assailant stood on the other side of a four-lane road in a neighborhood just northeast of Texas Southern University. The vest likely saved Clopton’s life, Constable May Walker said.

A motive for the shooting is unknown. Asked if authorities believed the shooter was targeting law enforcement, Smith said that Clopton and another deputy constable he was assisting in the traffic stop were in uniform and had marked vehicles.

“I can’t see how someone can mistake them for someone other than law enforcement,” Smith said.

The suspect fired six shots, four of which hit Clopton, Walker said. Officials had said earlier that Clopton had a bullet lodged near his heart, plus abdominal wounds. The other shots hit the other deputy constable’s car and the ground.

“It was virtually an ambush is what it was,” Walker said.

Constables in some regions are tasked with serving warrants and providing court security, but in the Houston area they generally provide the same policing coverage as other law agencies.

Clopton is an 11-year veteran of the force who is married and has five children, said Pamela Greenwood, spokeswoman for the Harris County Precinct 7 constable’s office. He comes from a law enforcement family, with three brothers who are law officers, and Walker said he’s married to a Harris County sheriff’s deputy.

According to Smith, the shooting happened after a female reserve deputy constable made the traffic stop and called Clopton to assist. The vehicle that was pulled over had left and Clopton was standing outside the window of the female’s officer’s vehicle when he was shot.

After Clopton was shot, the female deputy constable got out and shot back, but it was unknown if she hit the fleeing suspect, Smith said. The person who later appeared at the fire station did not have any injuries, Smith said, adding that the shooting was not related to the traffic stop.

Clopton is the second Harris County law officer to be shot from behind in an unprovoked attack in the past year. Texas prosecutors in August charged a 30-year-old man with capital murder in the killing of sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth, who was gunned down while filling his patrol car with gas in what officials described as a “senseless and cowardly act.”

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Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Chicago, Bernard McGhee in Atlanta, and Diana Heidgerd and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.

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