Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner confirmed police Sgt. Steve Perez is the 15th fatality related to hurricane Harvey. Turner says he was trapped by flood waters and died in his patrol car.
The Houston Chronicle reports the 60-year-old veteran police officer was determined to get to work to help others – even though his wife asked him not to take the risk.
Perez had been on the force for more than 30 years. The Houston paper reports he became trapped in high water on Interstate 45 and couldn’t get out of the car.
Watch the Houston Mayor’s and Police Department’s news conference about this tragedy and the brave work of first responders.
“I got to learn that he’s in a family of faith… they have faith in God and when you have faith in God you have hope,” said Police Chief Art Acevedo. He said Perez’s family was comforted by that even as they were “hurting” in their grief.
He had tears in his eyes Tuesday when he confirmed Perez’s death. He said officers searched for him but couldn’t recover his body on Monday.
“We could not put more officers at risk for what we knew in our hearts would be a recovery mission,” he said.
Acevedo said other crews and a dive team recovered his body on Tuesday.
He called Perez, who died days short of his 61st birthday, a “sweet, gentle public servant.” Acevedo says he’d only been serving in Houston nine months and with a 6,500 member force, he knew who Perez was.
He went on to say about his force working tirelessly in the face of Harvey: “We will continue. This police department is resilient, as is this community and I look forward to taking this man and giving him the honors and his family that he so richly deserves.”
Mayor Turner says Perez made the ultimate sacrifice, “Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying. Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post…”