A deputy in Houston, Texas, was shot multiple times in the back while talking to another officer Wednesday evening in what is being called an ambush. Harris County Deputy Constable Alden Clopton was rushed to the hospital where he underwent several hours of surgery, authorities said Thursday in a press conference. He remains in critical condition but is expected to survive. Police are searching for the assailant and have made no arrests.
“He had sustained six wounds to his abdominal cavity and chest cavity,” explained Dr. Joseph Love, with Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute. “The surgery went well, successful. He is now recovering fairly routinely in our shock trauma intensive care unit.”
Authorities say Clopton’s protective vest likely saved his life. The shooting happened while he was talking to another officer who had just finished a traffic stop. Clopton pulled over to offer assistance to the female reserve deputy constable who had made the stop.
After the traffic stop wrapped up, Clopton was leaning into the reserve deputy’s passenger window to help with the patrol unit’s audio-visual equipment. That’s when a man approached from behind and fired at least six shots, four of which struck the deputy in his back.
The suspect fled as the reserve deputy returned fire. It’s not known whether the assailant was struck.
Constable May Walker said the deputy never saw the attack coming. “It was virtually an ambush, is what it was,” Walker said. Houston police spokesman Kese Smith was asked if authorities believed the shooter was targeting law enforcement. Smith noted that Clopton and the other deputy constable he was assisting were in uniform and had marked vehicles. “I can’t see how someone can mistake them for someone other than law enforcement,” he concluded.
Clopton, a married father of six, comes from a family of police officers. His wife, oldest son and three brothers are also in law enforcement.
Next page: Were threats by the New Black Panther Party to blame for the ambush?
The number of officers killed by gunfire is up 167% so far this year according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Last year, another Texas deputy was ambushed in Harris County. Sheriff Darren H. Goforth was shot in the back and killed while filling up his patrol car at a gas station. Goforth appeared to have been targeted “because he wore a uniform,” Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at the time.
Last summer, members of the Houston-based chapter of the New Black Panther Party marched in front of the jail in adjacent Waller County and shouted, “You’re gonna stop doing what you’re doing, or we will start creeping up on you in the darkness.” Clopton is the second Harris County deputy sheriff to be “crept up on” in a year.