Thursday, February 24, 2011
HPD officer shot in sweep to punish Mexico's drug cartels
Copyright 2011 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 24, 2011, 1:28PM
A suspect reportedly was shot and a veteran Houston police officer wounded this morning as part of a nationwide sweep to punish Mexico’s drug cartels and those accused of helping them do business in the U.S.
Nainash Patel, 39, an HPD narcotics officer, was shot twice, with one bullet going through his elbow and another still lodged in his hip. Patel was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital and is expected to have a full recovery, said HPD Police Chief Charles McClelland.
HPD spokesman Kese Smith said HPD officers executed a narcotics warrant at 207 Buckboard about 8:25 a.m. today, knocking on the door and identifying themselves as police in English and Spanish. When no one answered, he said, the officers — dressed in SWAT gear — entered the house.
A suspect came out from a back room and started shooting at the officers with a handgun, Smith said. He said officers fired back and the suspect was shot, but he would not provide details on his condition. A second suspect in the home surrendered to the officers without incident, Smith said.
Patel was acting as part of a team that included federal agents, said Carl Pike, assistant special agent in charge of special operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The joint federal efforts were codenamed "Operation Bombardier" in response to the slaying last week of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, who was driving an official vehicle in Mexico.
Raids that are continuing today in Houston and across the nation are a clear payback for the attack on Zapata and a fellow agent injured when they were ambushed by gunmen believed to work for a Mexican cartel known as the Zetas.
"We are not just going after Zetas, we are going after all cartels," Pike said. "We want all the cartels to realize this. It is the school-yard mentality — a bully situation," he continued. "The cartels have pushed — if you don’t push back, you become the victim. U.S. law enforcement is not going to become the victim."
Pike said that the raids began quietly earlier this week and would continue for about another 24 hours. He expected several hundred people would be arrested. Already, officers have seized cash, guns, drugs.
At least 144 people have been taken into custody, and $5.5 million in cash seized. That includes $1 million in the Dallas area.
Pike said further action is expected to be taken in the next few hours in Latin America.
Houston Police officers and federal agents milled around the crime scene across the street from Aldine ISD’s Kenneth D. Black elementary school this morning. The modest, single-family brick home near Buckboard Drive and Imperial Valley was blocked off with crime scene tape, and officials were releasing little information about the shooting.
"When we heard the officer was shot this morning, it gave everybody pause," Pike said. "What he did today is a true testament to what law enforcement in the United States means and why we aren’t going to be pushed around."
The chief said Patel has already expressed excitement about returning to work.
"He told the mayor and I that that’s all he ever wanted to be was a narcotics officer and he can’t wait to get back," McClelland said at the hospital this morning.
"He’s got a big smile on his face," Mayor Annise Parker, who was also at the hospital, said of Patel. "He’s going to be fine."
Patel joined HPD in February 1997, and became a narcotics officer in November 2006.
Among the federal agencies making arrests are the DEA, ICE, FBI, Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Reporters Dale Lezon and Zain Shauk contributed to this report