Suspect in Harris deputy’s death was once committed to state mental hospital

Shannon J. Miles, 30, is escorted from a Harris County court hearing Monday. Miles is accused of capital murder in the ambush and slaying of Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth.
Shannon J. Miles, 30, is escorted from a Harris County court hearing Monday. Miles is accused of capital murder in the ambush and slaying of Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth. The Associated Press

The man accused of ambushing a Harris County sheriff’s deputy Friday evening, shooting him 15 times while the deputy was stopped to put gas in his patrol car, has a history of mental illness and once lived in an Austin homeless shelter, authorities said Monday.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson appeared at a court hearing Monday for the suspect, Shannon J. Miles, 30, who has been charged with capital murder in the slaying of Deputy Darren Goforth, 47.

Goforth, a sheriff’s deputy for 10 years, was shot at a convenience store-gas station in the Houston suburb of Cypress.

Miles is being held without bail.

Anderson would not comment on a possible motive, saying investigators were still trying to figure that out. Asked if it might be connected to heightened tensions nationwide between law enforcement and civilians, Anderson said, “I have no idea whether it does or not.”

Over the weekend, Sheriff Ron Hickman said that the attack was “clearly unprovoked,” that authorities believe Goforth was targeted because he was in uniform and that there is no evidence Goforth knew Miles.

Anthony Osso, one of Miles’ two court-appointed attorneys, told The Associated Press that his client intends to plead not guilty.

“He had indicated to the investigating officers that he was not involved in the case,” Osso said in a telephone interview.

Criminal record

In 2012, the Travis County district attorney’s office charged Miles with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he got into a fight at a homeless shelter over a remote control, prosecutor Joe Frederick said. Miles was found to be mentally incompetent in October 2012, and he was sent to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon.

Miles was declared mentally competent in February 2013, but the charge was dropped after the victim could not be located, Frederick said.

Miles also has three convictions for resisting or evading arrest, as well as convictions for disorderly conduct with a firearm, criminal mischief and giving false information to police. Records show he was sentenced to several short stints in jail, ranging from six to 10 days.

In court Monday, Anderson read the probable cause statement, which said police first received a call at 8:20 p.m. Friday. Officers found Goforth’s body facedown at the gas station.

Surveillance video from the gas station showed that Goforth had just come out of the convenience store when Miles got out of a red truck, she said.

“He runs up behind Deputy Goforth and puts the gun to the back of his head and shoots. Deputy Goforth hits the ground and then he continues to unload his gun, shooting repeatedly into the back of Deputy Goforth,” Anderson said.

Goforth was shot 15 times, Anderson said, and shell casings match the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun found at Miles’ home.

Hunting the red Ranger

The Houston Chronicle reported that the video offered a key detail deputies would use: The gunman fled in a red Ford Ranger. But the pickup’s license plate was too grainy on the footage for the forensics team to make out, Deputy Thomas Gilliland said.

Investigators combed through state data for red Ford Rangers. They narrowed the vehicle down to those registered in the ZIP codes surrounding the Chevron at Telge and West. About 20 matched the description.

Deputies were dispatched to do some “old-fashioned police work,” Gilliland said. With searchlights overhead from helicopters announcing their presence, deputies tracked down vehicles and knocked on doors.

Within four hours, they found a red Ford Ranger in front of a two-story brick house about a half-mile from the crime scene that included some “distinctive accessories” that deputies knew from the video were in the gunman’s truck.

Deputies took the pickup owner, Shannon Jaruay Miles, 30, in for questioning early Saturday before formally arresting him hours later.

In an age where almost everyone leaves telling digital footprints, Miles appears to have shared relatively little about himself. In an online résumé that matches Miles’ name, he listed several stints at fast-food restaurants in Houston and nearby universities, the Chronicle reported.

A Facebook page also bearing Miles’ name offered scant details, listed 12 friends and few posts.

A University of Houston representative confirmed Sunday that Miles attended the school at some point, and a newspaper clipping lists him as having played wide receiver for the Cypress Falls High School football team.

The killing provoked strong emotions in the law enforcement community, with Hickman linking it to heightened tension over the treatment of African-Americans by police.

The nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement has sought sweeping reforms of policing. Related protests erupted in Texas recently after Sandra Bland, a black woman, was found dead in a county jail about 50 miles northwest of Houston three days after she was arrested on a traffic violation.

“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too,” Hickman said Saturday.

Houston Police Lt. Roland De Los Santos, a childhood friend of Goforth’s, called the deputy a “simple guy” who was focused on providing for his family, noting that Goforth’s wife is a teacher and the couple has a 12-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

Goforth’s funeral is scheduled for Friday.

This report includes material from the Houston Chronicle.

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