HOUSTON (CN) – Angered by the murder of a Houston police officer by a man with a history of domestic abuse, Chief Art Acevedo on Monday called out Texas Senator John Cornyn, claiming he’s cowing to the National Rifle Association by stalling a bill to stop abusers from buying guns. But the Republican lawmaker’s aide said Tuesday that Acevedo is off base.
Cornyn’s aide said state and federal law already barred the shooter from owning a firearm due to his August 2015 domestic violence conviction.
Charged with capital murder, Arturo Solis, 25, is being held without bond in the Harris County Jail for the shooting of Sergeant Christopher Brewster.
Solis’ girlfriend called 911 on Saturday night from a home on Avenue I on Houston’s East End and said Solis had assaulted her and had two handguns.
Brewster, 32, had been with HPD for nine years and was promoted to sergeant in February. He spotted Solis walking three blocks away from the home and got out of his patrol car. Solis’ girlfriend was walking behind him and she pointed at him as Brewster approached, local media reported.
At Solis’ initial appearance in court Monday, his attorney said he had told police he fired all the bullets in one of the guns at Brewster.
Police found Solis at a nearby elementary school. A Harris County prosecutor said at Monday’s hearing that Solis asked the officers if the policeman he shot was OK, the Houston Chronicle reported.
His attorneys said in the hearing that he has suffered from mental illness since he was a teenager.
Acevedo lashed out at Cornyn, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at a news conference Monday, blaming them for not working with the House of Representatives to pass the Violence Against Women Act.
Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the bill designated $1.6 billion for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes against women. It was extended by bipartisan majorities in 2000 and 2005, but it expired in February.
The House of Representatives passed a bill in April reauthorizing the bill, including a new clause banning convicted domestic abusers from buying firearms. But negotiations in the Senate broke down last month.
Solis was arrested for hitting his girlfriend in August 2015 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault of a family member.
Acevedo told reporters that Cornyn, Cruz and McConnell aren’t meeting with House members in a conference committee to hash out the legislation “because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends.”
Backed by a group of HPD brass and jabbing his finger in the air, Acevedo said, "And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend. So you’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts or you’re here for the NRA.”
"I don't want to see their little smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I'm burying a sergeant, because they don't want to piss off the NRA,” he added. “Make up your minds. Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers, the gun lobby or the children who are getting gunned down in this country every single day?"
But Cornyn’s aide said in a statement to Courthouse News on Tuesday that regardless of the lapsed Violence Against Women Act, Solis was already barred from owning a firearm.
“So the ‘loophole’ he spent so much time blaming Sens. Cornyn and Cruz for didn’t apply because he already wasn’t supposed to own a gun,” she said.
The Houston Police Officers Union board reportedly sent a memo to its members Tuesday afternoon criticizing Acevedo “for hijacking this somber moment.”
HPOU board member Douglas Griffith declined to provide a copy of the memo Tuesday. “We don’t want to take away from the family. We just wanted to put it out to our members. But once the funeral is over we will be taking this up with the chief and the mayor,” he said.
Brewster grew up in Houston, the baby brother to three older sisters, his obituary states. He is survived by his wife of five years.
His funeral service is set for Thursday at 10 a.m. at Grace Church Houston.