Off-duty officer shoots man outside SE Houston restaurant

December 29, 2011 8:24:33 PM PST
Houston police have already filed aggravated assault charges against the man who reportedly threatened an off-duty officer with a knife. But there are questions about exactly what happened at the Denny's on the Gulf Freeway near Airport around 3am Thursday.

Officer Julio Lopez is off the streets and on desk duty for at least the next three days as HPD Internal Affairs, Homicide and the District Attorney's Office investigate. While police claim the man who was shot threatened the officer and his brother with a knife, some say the incident is not as cut and dry as HPD is making it out to be.

No one answered the door at Officer Lopez's southeast Houston townhome on Thursday. The five-year veteran HPD officer lives just a few miles from the Denny's restaurant where police say he shot and wounded a man who allegedly threatened the officer with a knife. It happened in the parking lot.

Lopez, who was off-duty, had stopped here to have breakfast with his brother and cousin after leaving a nightclub. That's when they started arguing with Clemente Vela, 32, and two other men.

HPD spokesman Victor Senties said, "The officer discharged his weapon at least twice into the air and repeatedly identified himself as a police officer. The suspect ignored that, got even more aggressive and went towards the officer with a knife in his hand as if he was about to stab him."

But there are conflicting accounts over what led up to the shooting. A witness who was inside the Denny's told Eyewitness News that Lopez was being loud, claims he appeared drunk and that Lopez made racially offensive remarks that angered Vela and his two friends, who are all minorities.

Lopez's attorney Chad Hoffman said, "I spent more than six hours with the officer today and he clearly was not intoxicated."

Hoffman told us it is standard procedure for an off-duty officer to submit a blood alcohol sample after discharging his weapon, though it's unclear if that was done in this case. Houston Police Union President Ray Hunt says HPD policy puts police officers between a rock and a hard place.

"One general order says that any measureable amount of alcohol in your system, you are prohibited from taking any police action," Hunt explained. "Another general order says that you're a police officer 24/7 and that if you see something occurring you shall take action."

Vela was shot at least four times and is recovering in the hospital. He's been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Officer Lopez has been with hpd since January of 2006.

Load Comments