HOUSTON – A woman accused of spitting in Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo's face during her arrest appeared in court Monday afternoon.
Danielle Paris, 40, was charged with harassment of a public servant after she spat on Acevedo on Saturday, officials said.
Acevedo, who was off-duty, said he noticed Paris stealing items from a Walgreens.
Acevedo said he was shopping for a college graduation card for a family member when he observed Paris leaving with the items and cursing and harassing customers.
"Unfortunately we’re never really quite off duty," Acevedo said. "I called 911 on my cellphone, and then she left, started leaving and before you know it, she kept at it and I had to take police action."
Acevedo approached Paris in his vehicle and identified himself as an officer, and when he attempted to detain her, she resisted and started to pull away and kick him. When an assisting officer came to help Acevedo, Paris spit on both of the officers several times, prosecutors said.
Officials said Paris spat directly in Acevedo's face.
Paris was arrested last month for spitting on another officer, was convicted and given 60 days in jail, but her time was reduced to 16 days.
“My concern is the person that was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony to another officer that was plea bargained down to a misdemeanor, and at some point we shouldn't wait until somebody ends up getting hepatitis or some other kind of communicable disease from someone who makes a habit of spitting in first responders faces," Acevedo told KPRC2 Monday.
The chief said this brings up a bigger topic when it comes to the judicial system.
“Which is part of the conversation we’re having in this city about way too many people not being held accountable, " he said. "How many times do people get to spit in the face of a police officer before they’re being held on what the law requires, and it’s a third-degree felony?”
"You try not to get involved when you’re off duty, that's what we try to do, that’s what we encourage our officers to do," Acevedo said. "But at the end of the day, we’re police officers 24/7, 365 days a year. And there are times when somebody is trying to commit a crime, and then they start trying to harass customers and employees. We’re not one to sit back as police officers and do nothing."
Acevedo is notorious for making arrests on his own, even as the top officer. In Austin, he made around 100 arrests during his tenure there. He said in his first year in Houston as chief, he's made several arrests.
“My title may be different, but at the end of the day, I’m a cop at heart. That’s why I still work patrol," he said. "And now, we just need to make sure that this second time she gets held accountable for a third-degree felony, which is exactly what she committed."
Paris is being held in the Harris County Jail on $3,000 bail.
Her next court date is set for Tuesday morning.