-- Police are searching for a suspect "potentially" linked to the shooting of two police officers on Tuesday, according to the Houston Police Department.
Officer Ronny Cortez, a 24-year veteran of the department, was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital in critical condition, said Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo in a press conference outside the hospital. The other officer, 10-year department veteran Jose Muñoz, was taken to Ben Taub Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries, Acevedo said.
Prior to the shooting, tactical police officers from the Houston Police Department were already in the area due to a recent spike in break-ins, when a resident alerted them to an alleged burglary, Acevedo said.
One resident notified police that the door to a storage shed in her backyard was ajar, which she found "suspicious," Acevedo said. Muñoz and Cortez jumped a fence to gain access to the backyard when a male suspect exited the shed and opened fire on the officers, Acevedo said.
The officers returned fire, striking that suspect, who was pronounced at the scene. The deceased suspect's identity is unknown.
Following the shooting, the neighborhood was placed on lockdown as hundreds of officers searched for a second suspect believed to be involved. "We will assume that the second suspect at large is armed and dangerous," Acevedo said, advising the suspect to surrender and apologizing to neighborhood residents for the "inconvenience."
The neighborhood lockdown was lifted just before 4 p.m. local time, with Acevedo saying the second suspect is linked to burglaries in the area and "potentially" involved in the shooting. Acevedo asked residents to remain vigilant as the second suspect remains at large.
On the way to the hospital, first responders performed life-support procedures on Cortez, said Houston EMS Medical Director and Public Health Officer Dr. David Persse. Although he is still in critical condition, Cortez's condition has improved since he has arrived at the hospital, and he is awake and talking, Persse said.
Acevedo described Cortez and Muñoz as having "hearts of lions" because they "didn't cower" or "run away."
They "stayed in the fight and engaged the suspect," Acevedo said.
Both officers were "getting the very best care available," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“I want to ask all of Houston and people in the region to pray for both of these officers and their families," Turner said. "As usual, they get up every day. They go on their shift. They don’t know what’s going to happen in the course of their shifts, and they dutifully serve this city."
Cameras flying overhead showed the officers being transported to local hospitals by ambulance with a police escort.