Houston, TX – Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo used the murder of Sergeant Christopher Brewster as an opportunity to bash the National Rifle Association (NRA) and multiple political leaders on Monday morning.
Chief Acevedo launched into a “5-minute rant on gun control” while standing outside the funeral home where the body of the slain sergeant had been taken, the Houston Police Officer’s Union (HPOU) later said in a memo to its members.
“I don’t want to hear about how much they support law enforcement,” the chief said of Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
“I don’t want to hear about how much they care about lives and the sanctity of lives…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,” he said.
“Make up your minds!” he demanded. “Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers? The gun lobby? Or the children who are getting gunned down in this country every single day?"
Chief Acevedo said that the reason lawmakers have not passed extensions of the Violence Against Women Act “is because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends who abuse their girlfriends.”
“Who killed our sergeant?” he asked. “A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend! So, you’re either here for women and children and our daughters, and our sisters, and our aunts, or you’re here for the NRA.”
Chief Acevedo accused lawmakers of bragging about legislative measures they care about.
“Start caring about cops, children and women and everyday gun violence,” he demanded.
The chief declared that he won’t discuss the issue any further this week, because he plans to focus his attention on Sgt. Brewster’s sacrifice.
He then blamed Sgt. Brewster’s murder on the “cowardice of the political people that we have in office.”
Chief Acevedo’s comments came just minutes before Sgt. Brewster’s body was escorted from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home, KTRK reported.
HPOU President Joe Gamaldi later issued a private memo to union members criticizing the chief for his timing, and said that he should apologize for his “offensive and inappropriate” comments.
“The fact that Chief Acevedo chose that moment to make a political statement on guns, is nothing short of offensive and inappropriate,” the memo read. “There is a time and place for every discussion and this was neither the time nor the place.”
The HPOU said that the focus should be on Sgt. Brewster and his family, “not on the Chief’s agenda.”
“If the Chief would like to make political statements there are plenty of opportunities to run for office, but in the meantime he should focus on running the 5th largest department in the country, instead of his misplaced activism,” the union said in the memo.
The HPOU further noted that it had previously provided Chief Acevedo with information regarding the staggering number of violent offenders who were handed deferred sentences.
“If the Chief wants to have a discussion on guns and crime, maybe he should share the facts that we have provided him that over 1600 people are on deferred for Agg Assault, 1100 people on deferred for Robber/Agg Robbery and over 300 people on deferred for Felon in Possession of a Firearm,” the memo read.
The HPOU said that it is “not interested in taking any more attention away from Sgt. Brewster and his family,” so it only issued the memo to its members.
“The Chief owes the entire Houston Police Department an apology for hijacking this somber moment,” the union wrote. “Chief Acevedo needs to understand, this is about Sgt. Brewster and his family…not him!”
The federal legislation Chief Acevedo was referring to sought to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” thereby banning suspects convicted of domestic violence from being able to possess firearms, even if they do not live with and aren’t married to their victims, KTRK reported.
Under current federal law, only domestic abusers who are living with or married to their victims are prohibited from owning firearms.
Although Chief Acevedo alleged that the politicians’ failure to pass the law led to Sgt. Brewster’s murder, he failed to note that the gunman was already prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a prior domestic violence conviction, KTRK reported.
Court documents specifically noted that he could not possess or purchase firearms as a result of that 2015 conviction.
Cruz and Cornyn later released statements in response to Chief Acevedo’s tirade.
“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,” Cruz’s office said, according to KHOU. “Senator Cruz is currently reviewing Violence Against Women Act legislation in the Senate.”
Cornyn’s office noted that the Violence Against Women Act is still fully-funded, despite the implications made by the chief.
“And he’s got it backward – Democrats in DC walked away from negotiations for a new law and that’s when it fell apart,” the statement read. “Sen. Cornyn helped introduce a new VAWA last month, which: Has 10% more funding than the Democrats’ bill, extends the Violence Against Women Act for 10 years vs the Democrats’ bill which is 5 years, [and] triples the support for rape prevention and education from current levels.”
Sgt. Brewster was murdered in the line of duty as he was investigating a domestic disturbance on Dec. 7.
The incident began at 5:47 p.m., when a woman called police to report that her boyfriend was assaulting her at a home in the 7400-block of Avenue I, Chief Acevedo said, according to KHOU.
The victim said that the suspect, later identified as 25-year-old Arturo Solis, was armed with two guns.
HPD officers arrived at the scene within approximately four minutes, but Solis and the woman had left the area, KHOU reported.
Sgt. Brewster was in the 7400-block of Avenue L when he spotted the woman at approximately 5:52 p.m., Chief Acevedo told reporters.
With his gun still holstered, the 32-year-old sergeant stepped out of his patrol vehicle and waved his hands to get Solis’ attention, KTRK reported.
The gunman then opened fire, hitting the veteran officer several times, according to KHOU.
At least one of the bullets hit Sgt. Brewster in the uppermost portion of his chest near his neck, just above his ballistic vest, Chief Acevedo said.
Despite being mortally wounded, Sgt. Brewster was able to alert his fellow officers about the shooting, which allowed them to contain the area, KHOU reported.
"Although he was mortally wounded, he had the presence of mind to draw his pistol out of his holster to protect himself in case the suspect came up and he also had the presence of mind and courage to put out and broadcast suspect information that was critical for the responding units," Chief Acevedo said, according to CBS News.
Solis fled the scene and was spotted jumping over fences as he made his way to a nearby school, where he was apprehended, KHOU reported.
Officers found him in possession of one semi-automatic handgun, and later located a second weapon and other evidence that he had allegedly discarded, CBS News reported.
Sgt. Brewster was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he died at approximately 6:30 p.m., according to The Houston Chronicle.
Solis allegedly confessed to killing Sgt. Brewster, and told investigators that he shot him to avoid being arrested, KTRK reported.
He was charged with capital murder of a police officer early Sunday morning, and is being held in jail without bond.
Sgt. Brewster graduated from the HPD Academy in November of 2010, the department tweeted late Saturday night.
He served as a patrol officer, and was also assigned to the Gang and Major Offenders Division.
In February, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was assigned to the Eastside Patrol Division at the time of his death, the HPD said.
"I remember the joy, the conversations we had with him on the stage," Chief Acevedo said of the moment of Sgt. Brewster’s promotion, according to CNN. "And now here just a year later, he's gone because of a coward."
Sgt. Brewster leaves behind his wife, parents, and sisters, CBS News reported.