Man who walked into fire station quizzed on constable ambush

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2016 6:12 PM
Man who walked into fire station quizzed on constable ambush

HOUSTON (AP) — Investigators questioned a man Thursday fitting the description of a gunman who authorities say ambushed a Texas deputy constable from behind following a traffic stop and critically injured him.

The man showed up at a nearby fire station following the shooting, Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said. No other information was released about him including what he may have told fire personnel when he appeared.

The man has not been arrested or charged, Smith said, adding that authorities were not actively looking for anyone else.

Authorities said Harris County Deputy Constable Alden Clopton was wearing a protective vest when he was shot four times from behind late Wednesday as the assailant stood on the other side of a four-lane road in a neighborhood just northeast of Texas Southern University. The vest likely saved Clopton's life, Constable May Walker said.

A motive for the shooting is unknown. Asked if authorities believed the shooter was targeting law enforcement, Smith said that Clopton and another deputy constable he was assisting in the traffic stop were in uniform and had marked vehicles.

"I can't see how someone can mistake them for someone other than law enforcement," Smith said.

The suspect fired six shots, four of which hit Clopton, Walker said.

"It was virtually an ambush is what it was," she said.

Physicians at Houston's Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute said Clopton was in intensive care Thursday afternoon after surgery to address six injured areas to his abdomen and chest. Some of the bullets would not be removed, Dr. Joseph Love said.

"He's doing quite well," Love said. "We don't anticipate further surgical procedures at this time."

He expected the deputy to remain in the hospital "for a week or so" and anticipated Clopton would make a full recovery.

Constables in some regions are tasked with serving warrants and providing court security, but in the Houston area they generally provide the same policing coverage as other law agencies.

Clopton is an 11-year veteran of the force who is married and has five children, said Pamela Greenwood, spokeswoman for the Harris County Precinct 7 constable's office. He comes from a law enforcement family, with three brothers who are law officers, and Walker said he's married to a Harris County sheriff's deputy.

According to Smith, the shooting happened after a female reserve deputy constable made the traffic stop and called Clopton to assist. The vehicle that was pulled over had left and Clopton was standing outside the window of the female's officer's vehicle when he was shot.

After Clopton was shot, the female deputy constable got out and shot back, but it was unknown if she hit the fleeing suspect, Smith said. The person who later appeared at the fire station did not have any injuries, Smith said, adding that the shooting was not related to the traffic stop.

Clopton's son, Todre, a police officer in Biloxi, Mississippi, said his father was coherent, understood what was going on but for now was unable to talk. Doctors had Clopton on a ventilator.

"He's a dad just like any other dad in America," Todre Clopton said in response to a question about his father. "He works for what he owns. He provides for his children and makes sure they have everything they need in life. He's shown due diligence and dedication to the community that he serves."

Clopton is the second Harris County law officer to be shot from behind in an unprovoked attack in the past year. Texas prosecutors in August charged a 30-year-old man with capital murder in the killing of sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, who was gunned down while filling his patrol car with gas in what officials described as a "senseless and cowardly act."

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Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Chicago, Bernard McGhee in Atlanta, and Diana Heidgerd and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.