HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A Harris County Sheriff’s Office sergeant died after being struck by a vehicle during a hit-and-run collision early Monday morning, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed.
“It is with heavy hearts that we sadly announce the passing of our HCSO Sergeant. May he Rest in Peace. He will be missed,” Gonzalez tweeted.
Gonzalez said Sgt. Ramon Gutierrez, 45, was assigned to the Harris County Vehicular Crimes Division and is a 19-year veteran. He leaves behind a wife, daughter and two sons.
Gonzalez said Gutierrez was conducting an off-duty motorcycle escort when he was struck by a vehicle along Beltway 8 in east Harris County. The driver did not stop following the collision but was later arrested.
Gutierrez was airlifted by Life Flight to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Lavillia Spry, 40, was charged with intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer, failure to stop and render aid resulting in death and evading in a motor vehicle.
Spry is due in court Tuesday. Authorities said she's being represented by a public defender.
According to authorities, Spry does not have a job because she had a baby about a month ago.
"The idea that the defendant has children at home that rely on her, she’s not very concerned with that," a judge said during Spry's bond hearing. "Because she’s on the road at 1:30 in the morning intoxicated. And I am concerned about community safety and the safety of her children."
Her bond was set at $275,000. Her bond conditions include an interlock device on any vehicle she drives, she must get permission to drive anywhere, she can't leave Harris County, can't have contact with the victim's family, can't go anywhere alcohol is served and is subject to alcohol and drug testing.
"Our entire Sheriff's Office family is grieving the sudden loss of our long-time brother,” Gonzalez said in a press release. "Sgt. Gutierrez served his community with honor and distinction, and we ask for everyone to lift his family in prayer during this tremendously difficult time.”
Investigators with the Harris County Sheriff's Office said the deadly wreck happened just before 12:30 a.m. along the 8900 block of the E. Sam Houston Parkway N near Tidwell as Gutierrez was helping escort an oversized load.
The sergeant stopped to block an exit ramp and got off his motorcycle. Investigators said Spry was driving a Hyundai Elantra that exited and swerved around the deputy's motorcycle, striking him.
Gutierrez was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. at a local hospital.
Spry did not stop, investigators said. Another deputy, who heard the report of the sergeant being struck, responded to the scene and caught up with Spry.
The responding deputy followed her until she stopped more than a mile from the scene, investigators said. They said she showed signs of intoxication and was arrested.
Following Gutierrez's death, the charges against Spry were upgraded to intoxication manslaughter, failure to stop and render aid and evading arrest.
She was booked into the Harris County Jail.
“We pray that she be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Gonzalez said.
Investigators said they’re looking into what Spry was doing before the crash. They said she claims to have been drinking at home before getting behind the wheel.
'Entire community's loss'
Gonzalez spoke early Monday following the death of Gutierrez.
“Anytime we lose a law enforcement hero, it is not just the department that suffers but the entire community’s loss,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff asked the community to continue to support law enforcement as they grieve the loss of another officer.
It's the second straight day that the Houston area is mourning the loss of a law enforcement officer. Harris County Precinct 5 Corporal Charles Galloway was shot to death during a traffic stop early Sunday on Beechnut in southwest Houston.
“We’re grieving, we’ll get through this,” the sheriff said. “It is incredibly hard when we lose a public servant that has given their entire life in service to the Harris County community.”
Gonzalez went on to describe Gutierrez as being an “excellent” sergeant who gave "exemplary service" and was an excellent deputy prior to that.
“Family’s grieving, his daughter is set to get married in less than two months,” the sheriff said. “There is just no word to describe what they are going through right now. We’re doing everything we can to lift them up in support and prayer as we get through this as an agency and a community.”
Watch the sheriff's full comments below:
‘It is unacceptable’
Sean Teare with the Harris County District Attorney's Office spoke on the incident early Monday morning.
“This sergeant is someone I have known personally for a long, long time,” Teare said. “When you have crashes like this, we’re on these scenes, day in and day out, when it is somebody close to you, it adds an even larger layer to it.”
Regarding Spry, Teare said, “There is no reason for it.”
He added that Spry drove more than a mile following the collision and had to be flagged down.
“It is unacceptable,” he said. “It is so beyond any rational thought that it is hard for people to understand how something like this can happen.”
Teare said the deputy was in full uniform and had his lights on when Spry allegedly struck him.
“For her, without care, to drive right through that and right over this sergeant, it kind of puts you at a loss for word,” he said. “Right now we are just making sure justice can be done in this case."