Deputy's final hours before fatal wreck

June 18, 2008 10:01:04 PM PDT
We're learning more about what happened in the final hours of a Harris County sheriff's deputy's life. Deputy Craig Miller died earlier this year on the west side, but the timeline doesn't answer every question.

We have been asking for weeks for that timeline tracking what Deputy Craig Miller did the day of his death. One of the sheriff's chief deputies ordered Miller's supervisor to come up with one and we have it, but one big question is left unanswered.

In the hours before an intoxicated Deputy Miller died in a horrific accident, he ate pizza, went shopping and hung out with a fellow deputy. But a big block of time is still unaccounted for.

"The fact is law enforcement officers work alone and act alone a large part of the time," said Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

So when did Miller, a member of the department's now defunct secret surveillance squad, get so intoxicated? His blood alcohol level was .28. That's more than three times the legal limit.

According to Sgt. Bruce Carr, Miller and the squad's other members spent the morning of the accident at their office on Lockwood cleaning their guns. And Miller talked about buying a pistol for his wife.

They went to lunch at Star Pizza on Washington.

I asked if the squad was drinking at lunch. Chief Billingsley said no.

Then they headed down the street to central police supply. Miller wanted to buy a flashlight for his wife's car.

Sometime between 2 and 2:30, real work began. Miller was dispatched to check out two locations in Katy related to a murder for hire case.

He headed out, but was back at the office on Lockwood between 3 and 3:30. An assistant says he stopped to pick something up.

Three hours later, Miller was called to another murder for hire surveillance assignment. This one was in the Copperfield subdivision. On the way he made a short stop at the Katy house of a fellow deputy.

And just before 8pm that Thursday in February, he was dead.

Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley still doesn't know what Miller did for about five hours that day.

"Although Sgt. Carr talked to him on the phone, he really didn't know what he was doing," the chief said.

And one big question still remains unanswered.

I asked the chief if the department believes it will ever find out when Miller started drinking and for how long. "I doubt very seriously we'll ever know that," he replied.

Chief Billingsley says as an investigator he would like to know where and when Deputy Miller was drinking that day, but he says in reality it doesn't change anything. He says if Miller had told his supervisor he had been drinking and couldn't make his assignment, there would have been no repercussions.

Jose Vieyra, the driver of the truck which hit Deputy Miller, is out on bond and remains charged with criminal negligent homicide despite concerns about the strength of the case against him. Eyewitness News sources say the case will go to a grand jury in the next couple of weeks.

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