HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An HFD arson investigator killed in the line of duty Friday morning in northwest Houston was a father of two.
The investigator was identified as 44-year-old Lemuel Bruce.
Bruce was conducting surveillance during an arson investigation in the 2100 block of W. 18th St. near Watercrest around 3:30 a.m., when he got into a confrontation with a suspect where they exchanged gunfire.
The suspect died at the scene. About an hour later, Bruce died from his injuries at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
What we know about HFD Arson Investigator Lemuel Bruce
- Married with two children, ages 12 and 8
- Began his 17-year career with HFD in 2003
- Previously served out of HFD Fire Stations 77, 96, 46, 42, 64, 6 and 12
- Assigned to the Houston Fire Department's Fire & Arson Investigation Division, which is the law enforcement agency of HFD, for the last five years
- U.S. Marine Corps veteran
What do HFD arson investigators do?
Arson investigators are certified peace officers as well as certified firefighters.
According to a description from the HFD Careers page, arson "responds in the event of incendiary fires, multiple alarm fires, fire deaths, bombings and criminal or terrorist activity associated with fires. These investigations require personnel highly trained in fire investigation, evidence collection and forensic photography."
Investigators often work with federal, state, and local agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Houston Police Department (HPD).
The four divisions within arson are Crime Lab, Polygraphs, Photography and the Task Force.
"It's a tragic, tragic loss, very young individual. 44 years old, prime of his life. Again, conducting basic arson investigation, and it ended in this way. It's senseless. Senseless," said HFD Chief Samuel Pena.
Pena has asked for prayers for Bruce's family.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was also at the hospital during the briefing on Bruce.
"Nearly half of his life was committed to city of Houston. It's a tough day. Tough day for city, tough day for fire, tough day for police," Turner said. "We'll take it one day at a time, and we'll get through this."
This is the first time an HFD arson investigator has been killed in the line of duty.
This is also the fourth HFD line of duty death since July, with the department losing three of its members to COVID-19 and complications from the illness.