HCCPD assists in HPD matter

Alyssa Foley, News Editor

Houston Community College Southwest Brays Oaks Campus was caught up in a shelter-in-place last month while police searched for a suspect in a nearby police shooting.

The shooting did not occur on the HCC’s 8855 West Bellfort property, but the campus fell at the edge of the shelter-in-place area issued by Houston Police. Students, faculty and staff were urged to stay away from the campus.

Houston Police issued a neighborhood lockdown on Feb. 28 as they searched for a second suspect connected with a nearby police shooting. The lockdown area was outlined by Sam Houston Toll Road, West Bellfort, S. Gessner and W. Airport.

The second suspect is still at large and was described by police as a light-skinned African American man, dressed in all black with a blue bandana. Police initially described him as Hispanic. A $20,000 reward is being offered for information about this second suspect, anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

Earl Riley, 25, was the first suspect in the incident. Riley was killed in a shootout with police after he shot two HPD officers called out to investigate a home burglary in the Glenshire neighborhood that day.

According to HPD, Riley is believed to have gang ties and records showed that Riley has arrests that date back to 2009 on several charges such as evading arrest, burglary, trespass, drug violations and weapons violations.

Officer Ronny Cortez was shot in the back and had a bullet lodged in his spine. Officer Jose Munoz was shot in the foot and suffered non-life threatening injuries. The were both shot several times around 12:30pm on Feb. 28 near the 8700 block of Sterlingame.

“We may be bruised. We may be battered. We may be shot,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Feb. 28, but “We will continue to serve this community.”

Houston Community College’s Brays Oaks campus is a new $12 million, 28,000 square-foot workforce center, the ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted about three months ago in early December 2016.

Campus management issued a lockdown on Tuesday Feb. 28 from about 1:30pm until around 4pm. Classes were canceled and the campus closed for the rest of the day. There were no injuries on campus, the lockdown was for precaution.

“The campus management made a great decision, the minute they heard [about the shooting], the decided that they were going to close down the campus,” said HCC Police Chief Greg Cunningham, “people on the ground were empowered and made that decision quickly—exactly the kind of thing we need to have happen.”

The campus backs up to a field adjacent to the residential neighborhood where the police shooting occurred.

HCC Police helped HPD by securing the field and setting up a perimeter. The perimeter ensured that if the second shooter Houston Police were looking for was hiding in the field, that he could not come out. It also prevented people from contaminating the field with their scent until police dogs arrived.

“I think our [police officers] did exactly what they needed to—got between a threat and the school,” said Cunningham.

HCC Police are reviewing their response to the incident to see if anything could have been handled better, but Cunningham praised the campus management for having the confidence to take ownership of the situation and make the right calls. “The college needs to be really proud of what they did.”

Cunningham would have preferred that the campus closure would have been called a ‘shelter-in-place instead of a ‘lockdown’.

“‘Lockdown’ is more K-12 language,” explained Cunningham, “as a K-12 school administrator, you can stop a student from leaving. When we’re talking about adults, I can’t stop you from leaving.”

As the situation dragged on for almost three hours, if HCC students needed to leave, HCC Police escorted them to their car and instructed them how to avoid road closures.

Every member of the HCC community received emergency notifications of what was happening at the small workforce campus thanks to the college’s transformation.