Massive manhunt launched after police officer gunned down, murdered at motel


HELENA-WEST HELENA, ARKANSAS — A Helena-West Helena police officer was murdered on Thursday night – and now there’s a desperate hunt underway for his killer.

It happened around 7:30 p.m. local time.

Police officers responded to the Delta Inn in the 1200 block of US 49 after a team came in.  That’s according to Police Chief James Smith.

That tip was apparently regarding a suspect or suspects involved in a shooting last week in Helena-West Helena.

The chief said that upon the arrival of the officers, at least one person opened fire on police from inside a vehicle.

One of the officers was hit.  He was rushed to Helena Regional Medical Center and died at the hospital.

Chief Smith tells the local media that the suspect, 29-year-old Latarius Howard, is the one responsible.

He was last seen in a maroon SUV.

Arkansas State Police are assisting in a massive manhunt for Howard.

The suspect, 29-year-old Latarius Howard, is the one responsible, per chief. (Helena-West Helena Police)
The suspect, 29-year-old Latarius Howard, is the one responsible, per chief. (Helena-West Helena Police)

It’s the second murder of a police officer this week.

On Monday afternoon, Houston Police Sergeant Sean Rios was shot and killed.  And it looks like the suspect was a repeat felon.

It’s no shock that the man who murdered Sgt. Rios was out on bond (the media failed to mention that).

Posted by Mary Nan Huffman on Tuesday, November 10, 2020

We brought you what we knew at the time of the murder(that story is below), but Tuesday saw an arrest made.

Robert Soliz, a 24-year-old male was taken into custody after being pulled over for a routine traffic violation near Katy, one of the western most Houston suburbs.

The arrest came roughly 24 hours after the death of Rios.

His death occurred when he reportedly tried to intervene in an exchange of gunfire between two vehicles near I-45 and Little York Road. According to Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo, Rios was on his way to work at the airport. 

“We do have 911 calls indicating exchange of gunfire between a white pickup truck and a Mercedes Benz matching the description of the vehicle that we have in police custody, and that’s the suspect’s vehicle,” HPD Chief Art Acevedo said.

“We believe there’s a high probability that Sgt. Rios saw that incident between these two vehicles and, sadly, he ended up losing his life in trying to intervene on that surface street.” 

According to ABC 13, Soliz was arrested earlier this year for unlawfully carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle. He was released on a $100 bail. He was alleged to have threatened to kill his then-girlfriend back in 2017.  

After being shot, Rios ran into the Taj Inn & Suites motel looking for help and collapsed. The Houston Fire Department responded and immediately began life-saving measure, but he was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. 

Massive manhunt launched after police officer gunned down, murdered at motel
Google Maps screen shot

A witness who heard the shots, told ABC 13: 

“He was just bleeding everywhere, all over, and just not running right. He entered the office at the motel and he collapsed right in there.” 

HPD officials believe that Soliz is tied to multiple road rage incidents in the Houston area. 

And, while authorities believe that they have the shooter in custody, they are also seeking a second person of interest. HPD issued a tweet with a video showing Soliz and the second individual they are looking for.

“The male in the black shirt is wanted in connection with the murder of Sgt. Sean Rios. The suspect in the white shirt is Robert Soliz, who is currently in custody. If you have information, please contact HPD Homicide 713-308-3600 or @CrimeStopHOU  at 713-222-TIPS #hounews”

The thoughts and prayers of all of us at Law Enforcement Today go out to the family and friends of Sgt. Rios as well as his HPD family. 

The department tweeted a video of the escort provided taking 47-year-old Sgt. Rios to the medical examiner’s office. 

Below is the story we shared with you on Monday of the shooting. 

Texas police sergeant murdered – killer reportedly escaped. Here’s what we know so far.

November 9, 2020

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Around 1:30pm on Monday, a police sergeant for the Houston Police Department was shot and killed. This was confirmed by the president of the Houston Police Union, Joe Gamaldi.

While details are scarce on the incident thus far, we do know that the shooting occurred on Interstate 45 North Freeway on the offramp near the Little York Road exit.

Live video on Click2Houston shows dozens of police vehicles lining the freeway near the Taj Inn & Suites conducting an investigation. Part of the interstate and nearby roads have been closed due to police activity.

From the photos on scene it appears as if the incident began as a traffic stop, but those details have yet to be released.

Multiple murders were reported in Houston over the weekend, as reported by ABC13, Click2Houston, Click2Houston again, and ABC13 again.

Several other shootings occurred that didn’t result in the victim dying, which you can read about HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Gamaldi tweeted:

“Please keep our Sgt who was shot and killed this afternoon in your thoughts and prayers, along with their family and all Houston Police Officers. We will not stop until we find the monster/monsters responsible.”

With violence seemingly on the rise in Houston, police are increasingly likely to run into criminals who have guns and aren’t afraid to use them.

This is a developing story. Check back with Law Enforcement Today for more details as they’re released.


Man accused of murdering Houston Police sergeant is illegal immigrant from El Salvador

HOUSTON, TX – We’re now learning more details about the suspect in custody said to have been the man that killed Sgt. Harold Preston on October 20th .  The man, Elmer Manzano, is also accused of wounding another officer as well as his own teen son following a domestic violence call to the man’s home.

Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement have confirmed that Manzano is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.

Prosecutors are pushing for the charges against Manzano to be federal due to his immigration status. He is facing charges for capital murder and attempted capital murder.

We at Law Enforcement Today offered a detailed account on the events that occurred within the Houston apartment complex that led to the 65-year-old Houston Police sergeant being fatally shot, which those details can be viewed further below.

ICE officials stated that Manzano is a “convicted criminal alien who is unlawfully present” within the United States.

After Manzano was arrested on October 30th, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations issued a detainer with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in relation to Manzano.

While the incident unfortunately led to the loss of a 41-year HPD veteran, the second officer injured appears to be recovering after having been shot in the arm.

Shortly after the incident, the HPD tweeted out their well-wishes regarding Officer Courtney Waller’s recovery.

Reportedly, after Officer Waller was shot on the 20th, it was an unnamed bystander that came to his aid and moved the injured officer to safety.

Apparently, Officer Waller had dropped his gun, presumably after being shot.  The same bystander went back to retrieve the officer’s weapon and handed it back to police that were on site.

At some point during the shooting and subsequent standoff between police and Manzano, the suspect was shot in the abdominal area and is being reported as in stable condition.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo says that Manzano is expected to be charged with the murder of Sgt. Preston.

The fallen sergeant was sworn in to the HPD back on August 25th, 1979 and was expected to retire later this year after having served decades with the department.

As mentioned earlier, here’s our previous report detailing the incident from October 20th, as well as a detailed background on the suspect’s criminal history prior to Sgt. Preston’s murder.

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Proposed bill in New Jersey would allow illegal immigrants to obtain professional and occupational licenses


The slain officer was identified as Sgt. Harold Preston, which he was reportedly due to retire later this very year.

The incident occurred during the morning hours of October 20th, when police were called to respond to an apartment located within the 2600 block of Holly Hall Street in Houston.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo said that the call was related to a report of domestic violence, which more specifically involved a woman trying to retrieve her belongings from the apartment where her husband, 51-year-old Elmer Manzano, had locked her out of.

When officers arrived on the scene, they spoke with the woman who was locked out of the apartment for approximately one hour before Manzano’s 14-year-old son, who was with the woman in the parking lot, managed to get the apartment door unlocked.

The teen boy saw that Manzano had a gun and went to alert officers – which then police say Manzano started firing his weapon from inside the apartment. The suspect’s son wound up getting shot in the arm, along with Sgt. Preston and Officer Courtney Waller both being shot in the process.

Officer Waller was shot in the arm and is expected to survive, but there’s no word yet on the teen’s specific condition.

However, Sgt. Preston was shot in the head and the shoulder and did not survive the ordeal.

Manzano proceeded to barricade himself inside of the apartment for roughly an hour after allegedly shooting his son and the officers, but eventually surrendered once SWAT was fully surrounded the building at approximately 10:26 a.m. that morning.

Chief Acevedo referred to the fallen officer as a hero when remarking on his decades of service to the HPD:

“I’m not calling him a hero because of the way he died today, but he is a hero. Because as good as he was as a cop, he was a better human being.”

Houston Police actually had an interaction with the suspect just days before the fatal shooting on October 20th.

Police records indicate that authorities were contacted by Manzano’s wife on October 17th and October 18th related to domestic complaints/disturbances. It was on October 18th when Manzano and his wife were arguing over custody of the 14-year-old boy that officers responded in person over an alleged assault complaint.

When officers were interviewing Manzano over the alleged incident from the 18th, they’d found that Manzano had six bullets in his pocket – however, authorities did not locate any gun. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office was apparently willing to levy charges of terroristic threats if officers believed that some sort of assault occurred.

However, according to the police report on the matter, responding officers informed the DA’s office that they believed “no assault occurred,” which prosecutors returned a charge refusal slip that read “officer does not believe offense occurred”.

As to where exactly Manzano obtained the firearm allegedly used in the crime is unclear – or whether the firearm was even legal for him to possess at the time for that matter.

Records indicate the suspect does have some prior arrests and previous convictions but has avoided the criminal justice system for roughly 16 years up until now.

Back in October of 1994, Manzano was arrested for unlawfully carrying a firearm in Dallas County, but that charge was eventually dropped after a years’ worth of adjudication.

In August of 2000, Manzano was arrested for a simple assault and took a plea deal for one year of probation. He later wound up having that probation revoked and he spent 6 months in jail.

That probation revocation seems to be linked for a second assault that happened in December of 2000, which when pleading out on that charge Manzano took another years’ worth of probation.

He apparently had that probation revoked and spent six months in jail.

In May of 2001, Manzano was arrested for felony assault causing bodily injury to a family member, but after two years that charge was also dropped by Dallas County.

By December of 2002, Manzano had wound up pleading guilty to evading arrest by way of a motor vehicle and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

Come 2004, he had what would be his final brush with the courts prior to October of 2020 when a judge had issued a protective order against Manzano.

This is still a developing investigation.

Please follow Law Enforcement Today to stay updated as this case progresses.

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