HOUSTON – A Houston police officer died in floodwaters Sunday morning while reporting for duty, according to Houston police Chief Art Acevedo.
The chief said Sgt. Steve Perez was trying to get to his primary post in downtown Houston about 4 a.m. Sunday. He said Perez tried unsuccessfully to get to downtown for more than two hours. He said Perez followed protocol, contacted his chain-of-command and then tried to get to his secondary post in Kingwood.
Acevedo said that when roll call was taken Monday morning, authorities noticed Perez was missing. He said officers contacted his wife and she advised them that she had not seen Perez since 4 a.m. Sunday. That was when a search was launched to find him.
Officers searched along Perez’s route and by 10 p.m. Monday, officers narrowed the search to Hardy Tollway and Beltway 8. They called for a dive team and members of Cajun Navy to help look for Perez, but could not locate him, Acevedo said.
Because the waters were “too treacherous,” the decision was made to call off the search, Acevedo said.
According to Acevedo, a dive team was deployed for a second time at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Perez’s body was found within 20 minutes.
Acevedo said that Perez drove into more than 16 feet of water at the underpass while trying to navigate through the dark and drowned.
Acevedo said Perez’s family begged him not to go to work, but he told them, "I've got work to do," Acevedo said.
Acevedo said he asked Perez’s wife, “If the Lord was going to take him today, how do you think he would have wanted to go? Lying in bed, watching all the disaster, or doing what he’s done for the last 34 years?"
Perez’s wife smiled and said, “If it was his turn to go, this is the way he would’ve wanted to go.” Acevedo said.
On Sept. 4, officers held a Wall of Honor for the hearse carrying Officer Perez's casket.
The Houston Police Department issued the following statement regarding Perez’s death:
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the tragic in-the-line-of-duty death of Sergeant Steve Perez. Sergeant Perez was bravely serving the city of Houston in the face of this unprecedented weather-related disaster when his vehicle entered high water.
The death of Sergeant Perez reminds us of the dangers that police officers willingly face every day in order to serve this great city. We will go through this extremely difficult and trying time with heavy hearts sadly reminded of the ultimate sacrifice one of our own paid. Words cannot adequately express the sense of loss the Perez family and their extended Houston police family are experiencing. Our hearts and prayers go out to Sergeant Perez’s family, his friends, neighbors and colleagues. He is survived by his wife Cheryl, a grown son and daughter and extended family. We ask that everyone keep him and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
We are proud of the courage of this 34-year veteran. Like Steve, we will not waiver and we will not stop until we meet the immediate safety and security needs of the community Steve and his family love to serve.
Acevedo said, “We’ll apologize now when we mess up traffic, but the least we can do is the day that we say goodbye that this family and community get a chance to say goodbye.
Acevedo described Perez as one of the sweetest men on the force.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said Perez reported for duty and completed his mission.