'Whose side are you on?' HPD chief slams Sens. Cornyn, Cruz in wake of death

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo demanded U.S. senators from Texas choose sides in an ongoing gun control battle Monday morning.

"Make up your minds," Acevedo asked of GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. "Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers? The gun lobby, or the children who are getting gunned down in this country every single day?"

SEE MORE: Chief Acevedo begs lawmakers to reconsider gun laws

Acevedo's remarks came minutes before he, the department's command staff and honor guard escorted Sgt. Christopher Brewster's body from the medical examiner's office to a Houston funeral home.

SEE MORE: Funeral plans finalized for Sgt. Christopher Brewster

Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, questioned Acevedo's timing, and said the chief owes the entire department an apology.

In a private message to union members, Gamaldi wrote, "The fact that Chief Acevedo chose that moment to make a political statement on guns is nothing short of offensive and inappropriate."

Gamaldi confirmed to ABC13 that he wrote the message, but declined to elaborate on it.

Acevedo is angry the U.S. Senate hasn't renewed the federal Violence Against Women Act. A provision of the bill, passed in the U.S. House, would close the so-called "Boyfriend Loophole." Federal law currently prohibits felons and domestic abusers married to or living with their victims from buying firearms.

Dating partners not living with alleged victims are not affected. Under current law, they can still pass a background check.

The U.S. Senate has stalled on the legislation prompting Acevedo's outrage.

"I don't want to see their little smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I'm burying a sergeant because they don't want to piss off the NRA," said Acevedo.

Sen. John Cornyn's office blamed Democrats for walking away from negotiations on the bill and told us Cornyn has worked to enhance the act. His statement did not mention the loophole at issue.

Sen. Ted Cruz's office similarly did not weigh in on the loophole, but told us, "For many years, Senator Cruz has worked in law enforcement, helping lead the fight to ensure that violent criminals-and especially sexual predators who target women and children-face the very strictest punishment. Senator Cruz is currently reviewing Violence Against Women Act legislation in the Senate."

In this instance, it's not clear the law Acevedo is talking about would've helped since under existing law, Arturo Solis could not legally possess or purchase any gun - and Solis knew it.

In August 2015, Solis was charged with assaulting a woman he was both dating and lived with.

Court records show he hit and scratched that then-girlfriend and pleaded guilty two days after his arrest - the paperwork says right there it will be "unlawful for the defendant to possess or purchase a firearm."

Acevedo ended his remarks challenging the senators.

"You start caring about cops, children and women and everyday gun violence. And that will be the last thing I say this week because the rest of this week is going to be about Christopher Brewster and his sacrifice," he added.

These aren't Acevedo's first comments on gun control, but they are some of the most forceful, directly taking on Texas's U.S. senators in the midst of mourning.

Acevedo's boss, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, supported closing the loophole at a news conference just last week. On Monday, Turner appeared to suggest today may not have been time for politics.

In a statement, Turner told ABC13, "This is a very painful moment. There is much that we could say about this tragedy, but right now, we need to focus our attention on giving support to the family and remembering Sgt. Christopher Brewster."

Follow Ted Oberg on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.