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Officer, Samaritan deaths leave witness shaken
By Ingrid Lobet : December 25, 2012 : Updated: December 27, 2012 2:49pm
UPDATE: Houston Police Department says Harlem Harold Lewis has been officially charged with capital murder in the shootings. He remained in the hospital in critical condition Wednesday.
A teenager running an errand with his dad's pickup. A grandfather beginning work Christmas Eve day at his auto body shop. A father making breakfast for his son.
A tragedy halted the activities of each and left the business owner and a police officer dead, the teenager gratefully alive, but his life changed, probably forever. The perpetrator in the tragedy is a 21-year-old about whom little is known.
Nineteen-year-old Selvin Romero was on the errand, going to pick up a family friend at church Monday morning. He slowed down for a speed bump on Jessamine Street, off Chimney Rock Road, when he felt someone hit him from behind. The same vehicle also hit a car parked along the curb.
In his rearview mirror Romero saw a black Honda Civic and behind that, a Bellaire police cruiser. He pulled left, thinking he would stop to get the driver's information, but the Honda continued past him.
Chris Hokanson had just seated his son, still in pajamas, at the kitchen table and started to fix breakfast. He hadn't yet poured milk into the cereal when he heard a loud bang.
"Oh, it must be a garbage truck," Hokanson remembered thinking. But it wasn't trash day.
As he reached his front porch Hokanson saw the Bellaire police car chasing after a white Ford truck and a black Honda. A black bumper with a license plate lay in the street along with broken glass and plastic. His own 2003 Saturn, parked on the side of the street, had been hit.
He followed car
Romero followed the Civic, concerned he would be blamed for the damage to the parked Saturn as well as any damage to his father's car.
The Civic crossed Bissonnet to Bellaire and pulled into the plaza where Terry Taylor's Maaco body shop was open. The Honda stopped when it hit a Dumpster.
Bellaire police officer Jimmie Norman, a 24-year law enforcement veteran, pulled in close behind. Romero got out of his car, insurance papers in hand.
He watched gunfight
Romero heard the officer order the driver of the Civic, 21-year-old Harlem Harold Lewis, Jr., out of his vehicle and told him he was under arrest. Norman approached Lewis; Lewis asked what he had done.
At that point Taylor came out to assist Norman. Romero said he saw the two men wrestling with Lewis. "They had him hands down, and then he turned and took out a gun and shot the officer," Romero said Tuesday. "The other guy (Taylor) tried to escape, and he shot him from behind."
Romero, now crouching behind his father's truck, watched as backup police officers arrived. A gunfight ensued, and Lewis was wounded. He fled on foot, but officers found him hiding nearby.
Taylor was lying on the ground where he had fallen, struggling to get air into his lungs. Romero appeared stricken as he recalled kneeling next to him, wanting to do something, fearing at the same time that he would be implicated in the man's death.
Taylor did not make it. His son, Kevin, 31, said he is not surprised his father stepped away from his work to try to help.
Besides his son, Taylor leaves behind his wife, Judy, 28-year-old daughter Courtney, and a grandson who will turn a year old on Saturday.
Relatives of Lewis declined to speak by phone or in person at an apartment in south Houston. Houston activist Quanell X said he knows the family well because they attend the same mosque. He said the events were "beyond the imagination" of anyone who knew Lewis.
Romero now changed
The 21-year-old has had a run-in with the law. Last month he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of three bracelets and three pairs of earrings and served three days in jail.
He is recovering from his injuries in the shooting at Memorial Hermann Hospital. An official would not update his condition Tuesday, but he is expected to survive his wounds.
Lewis is charged with murder in Taylor's death, and capital murder in the officer's death. If convicted of capital murder, he could face the death penalty. He is expected to make his first court appearance Jan. 2.
Selvin Romero and his family are overcome with gratitude that he is alive. But he is changed.
Marta Romero, his mother, said her son always wanted to be a police officer. Romero graduated from high school last spring and has been working with his father landscaping and planning further study.
He spent the hours until early Christmas morning with the police and has not slept. Overcome, finally, he said, "I don't want to be a police officer anymore."
Jayme Fraser contributed to this report.