Monday, June 6, 2011

Because No One Died, A Crime Goes Unheralded in Houston

Last Friday evening, a Houston Police Department officer, on his way home from duty at about 6 o’clock, was hit by a 19-year old gang member who was speeding through a residential area in the northern suburb of Kingwood, traveling an estimated 70 mph when he struck the officer’s personal vehicle. The young gang member had run a stop sign when his car struck the officer’s truck on the driver side. The force of impact ejected the officer from his vehicle and he suffered severe, life threatening head trauma, including many deep gashes and nearly losing his right ear.

Here are the basic facts. The gang member, with his girlfriend as a passenger, was fleeing a domestic disturbance at his parents' home in the area. It is alleged and very likely that he was high on one or more drugs when the event took place. Controlled substances were found in his vehicle. (This even after his mother tried to clean the car of drugs before authorities got to the scene, as neighbors witnessed) This is a residential area called Sherwood Trails that I know well, and children playing and mothers walking their children in the streets are extremely common. He could have done far worse than injuring an off-duty police officer- he could have killed a family with young children driving in a minivan, or a ten-year old chasing a basketball into the street, or a mother walking an infant in a stroller.

But Houston news outlets don’t think that a drugged-up gang member nearly killing a police officer is newsworthy enough to report. Outside of passersby reporting the incident on local blogs, there is little to no coverage of the event. And any coverage I’ve seen has depicted the event as an accident rather than a crime.

I would disagree with them, however. You see, that officer is my younger brother.

Officer Gordon Sullivan was tended to by the finest doctors and surgeons in the world at Memorial Hermann Hospital, and I and my family feel incredibly blessed that my brother survived a situation that ninety-nine times of a hundred he probably would not have. We feel it to be nothing short of Providence. But what bothers me is that the young man who hit him is enjoying the anonymity of his crime.

Had he killed my brother or killed a child or pedestrian, the very possible outcomes of his actions, the news would report the incident as a crime, resulting in the appropriate public outrage for the travesty, and justice would be demanded. Instead, this crime is unheralded as just another traffic accident, and the young man may receive nothing more than a possession charge, traffic ticket, and perhaps a DUI. Effectively, the same result as if he’d been pulled over; not reflecting the fact that he nearly killed my brother because of his reckless choices.

Not just the media is treating this as “just an accident.” Most aggravating and unbelievable, a female Kingwood-based HPD officer who watched over the young gangbanger at the hospital during the night came to visit my brother the next morning as he recovered. Her first words to my brother as he lay recovering from the plastic surgery that took place was, “Bet you wear your seat belt next time, huh?” Yes, he should have worn his seat belt by law, but in retrospect I’m glad he did not. Over the course of the night, I heard varying opinions of the over 30 cops and firefighters who came to bring my brother good wishes, and many of them recounted stories of similar accidents where the driver was wearing a seatbelt and the force of impact upon a static occupant left the driver with a broken neck or contorted the body so much that it caused tears in the heart. Given that my brother’s injuries were preferable to another possible outcome, I am infuriated at this woman’s audacity to chide my brother in his condition.

My brother works the Fifth Ward, Acreage Homes, Alief; some of the most dangerous beats in not just the Houston area, but in the country. He does not ride a desk in the upper-middle class suburb of Kingwood like this woman. He explained to her that when on patrol, he often doesn’t wear a belt because he needs to be able to quickly exit his vehicle to chase suspects, and sometimes he does forget to wear it. Of course, the “desk” officer had missed the point entirely, as his wearing a belt is not the issue. If a drugged-up gangbanger hadn’t been driving 70 in a 30, run a stop sign and plowed into his truck, he wouldn’t be in the hospital at all.

She then explained that she had told the young gangbanger to not feel so bad about what happened. She apparently shares the local news outlets’ opinion: since my brother didn’t die, it was just another accident. It’s hard to think of a comment more devoid of common sense, though. By her logic, a drunk driver hitting a car or a crack-head stabbing a passerby would be an “accident” since neither could control his actions in an inebriated state. She completely overlooks the conscious decision it takes to imbibe the drugs that cause the lack of control to begin with.

Cops who work the area explained to me that they knew very well who this young gang member was. For over three years, one officer described, he had known the kid was doing bad things and was going to hurt someone. Well, now he has. But now that his drug use and disrespect for the rules of decent society have caused him to almost kill my brother, what will happen to him?

I don’t want this event to slip under the radar of public awareness. I don’t want his crime to live in anonymity so that it makes it easier to for him to escape justice for what he has done, allowing him to be free to sooner do it again. He almost killed my brother, and scarred him for life. Officer Gordon Mitchell Sullivan is a former soldier of the 82nd Airborne Division. A decorated veteran who survived two tours in the Iraq War. A devoted officer who bravely works to keep the peace in the city of Houston. A beloved son, brother, uncle, and friend of many whose humor, kindness, and generosity is well-known and cherished by all who know him. A honorable, good man whose life was almost extinguished by a drugged up, vile gangbanger who, by the grace of God, was not able to cause as much damage as he could have because my brother happened to cross his path on the way home. And also by the grace of God, my son, who is named after my brother, will continue to grow up and know his uncle.

It is in our best interest that the public is made aware of this crime, and that we invest effort to see that this young man receives the penalty he deserves. To any who may read this, I ask that you help by relaying the story through any available channels.

Thank you.

William Sullivan

Update: has issued an update today. This update suggests that the gang member is 20, did not appear under the influence, and that the injuries were "non-life threatening." Given the other facts of the case (involved in domestic disturbance, driving with extreme recklessness, and found to be in possession of crack, not exactly a gateway drug) it takes a stretch of the imagination to believe that he was clean and sober. I will update as needed, and hopefully the investigation, which is ongoing at this point, reveals the truth so a proper punishment can be considered.