Deputy shoots, wounds suspected auto parts thief in northwest Harris County

The shooting happened at an auto salvage yard on Northville near Veteran's Memorial Sunday night.
August 23, 2013 9:22:24 PM PDT
A group of suspected thieves' attempt to break into a junk yard in north Harris County last night ended in gunfire. Three sheriff's deputies opened fire on the alleged thieves, injuring one of them.

The suspects were reportedly caught red-handed at Pick a Part Auto Salvage in the 1100 block of Northville near Deer Trail. Deputies have two people in custody, and there is an active search for two others.

Deputies say this all started with four suspected thieves breaking into the salvage yard around 10:30pm. A security guard apparently spotted the group of suspects stealing auto parts on surveillance video.

Owner Leeland Johnson said he wasn't surprised to get a call about the theft overnight. He said it's the fifth time it's happened since the Fourth of July.

"I've had them on camera. Not monitored, but I've had them on camera," Johnson said. "And they walk around and are talking on their cell phones, just blatantly stealing."

According to Johnson, thieves typically go after gasoline and car batteries on his property. He invested in surveillance cameras and a security system, along with locks, chains and electric fences.

"We have to make as much money as we possibly can. And when they take stuff from us, it hurts. That's the bottom line," Johnson said.

Last night, his cameras captured four suspects -- two stealing gas from his pump. When deputies arrived, two hopped a fence topped with razor wires. The other two suspects got into a stolen F-150 pickup and repeatedly rammed into two patrol cars.

A total of three deputies opened fire on the truck. A spokesperson says they had no choice.

"The deputy ordered the driver to stop. The driver again put the truck in reverse, ramming the first vehicle again," said Thomas Gilliland with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "At that point, deputies discharged their weapons at the truck. The driver was struck one time."

A bullet grazed the driver -- John Alexander, 17 -- in the head. He was treated at Ben Taub General Hospital.

Alexander is charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer. A second suspect was captured in the vehicle. He is a 13-year-old boy.

The two other suspects who hopped the fence remain at large. Investigators said they are confident the suspects will be located.

All three deputies who were involved in this incident are now on a five-day mandatory administrative leave, as is protocol.

For Johnson, this is a hopeful start to the end of a costly string of thefts.

"I'm glad it worked finally. You know, some of the money that we spent on security -- and I spent a lot of money on security -- finally paid off," Johnson said. "Someone finally got caught."

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