Man in custody after deadly ambush on Harris County Sheriff's deputy

HOUSTON -- A person of interest is in custody after the deadly ambush of a Harris County sheriff's deputy, fatally gunned down without warning Friday night while filling up his patrol car at a northwest Harris County gas station.

We've learned the person of interest is inside the Harris County Sheriff's Office in east Houston and continues to be questioned. So far, no one has been charged.

Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, had just left an accident scene last night when he stopped by a gas station on Telge and West Road. As he was pumping gas, a man approached him from behind, said nothing and fired multiple shots. Once the deputy fell to the ground, authorities say the suspect fired more shots. Deputy Goforth was pronounced dead on the scene.

An intense manhunt covered Harris County for hours overnight. At about 2:30am, authorities converged on a home on Crystal Lake in Copperfield, led there by a tip. The focus of the investigation is on the red pickup truck in the home's driveway. The person of interest was taken into custody at what's said to be his mother's house. His identity has not been released.

The man's mother -- who didn't want to show her face or give her name -- told Eyewitness News her son is innocent. She said, "My son is innocent. I was in the house with him, so when that happened, my son was home."

See photos in the case


Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff's Office, assigned to the west district patrol. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

"This is a very tough moment right now for the Harris County Sheriff's Office. I can ask you if you give us your prayers and your thoughts," said Deputy Thomas Gilliland with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "It's tough enough being a deputy and being in law enforcement in this country right now, but for people, the way that they are right now, I have no words for what this type of person did."



Officers had described the suspect only as a dark-complexioned man who's about 5 feet 11 inches tall. He had short hair, possibly a fade cut. He was wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts at the time of the shooting and fled the scene in a dark red Ford Ranger.

"It strikes us all at the heart of public service," said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman, who vowed to hunt the suspect down. ""I've been in law enforcement 45 years. I don't recall another incident this cold-blooded and cowardly."

"It's an act of cowardice and brutality the likes of which I've never seen," added Harris County DA Devon Anderson.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls tweeted this message of support this morning: "Despite the cowardice attack last night, we will continue to provide professional (law enforcement) services to our communities. Be careful out there."



Dr. Kevin Pigg, Senior Pastor of Crossbridge Christian Church, felt moved to come out and pray with deputies overnight.

"That just rips my heart out, seeing anyone die, especially one who protects us like that," he said. "You could just see the officers holding back the tears. I just felt led to pray with them."



A witness named Mackenzie, who declined use of her last name, heard the shots ring out.

"We were driving on West Road and we heard the shots, and when I turned and looked, the lady was screaming over top of him. So we busted a U-turn into the parking lot and that's when we saw what had happened," she said.



The witness says she saw a woman sobbing over Deputy Goforth's body.

"She was laying on top him. She was saying that was her best friend and that he had two kids," Mackenzie said.



Mackenzie says the suspect was gone by the time she had pulled into the parking lot and called 911.

This shooting marks the first time a Texas law enforcement officer was fatally shot this year. This is the first officer slaying in the Houston-area since 2012.

Bob Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, said the incident was "shocking."

"We've been warned of things like this, because of public sentiment nationally and events over the last few years ... It's just horrific. That's the only way to describe it."



We've learned the non-profit, the 100 Club, is assisting Golforth's family in the wake of his loss. The 62-year-old organization said today they will give the family a $20,000 check to help with any financial needs. The organization added in a statement today, "Additional financial support for the dependent family, which averages $300,000 per tragedy, will be made after an assessment of their needs is conducted."
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