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Suspect in Houston-area officer attack had history of mental illness

Suspect in Houston-area officer attack had history of mental illness
Shannon Miles is escorted out of a courtroom after a hearing Monday in Houston. Miles has been charged with capital murder in the death of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)

A man charged with murder in the ambush of a suburban Houston sheriff's deputy had a history of mental illness and was once declared mentally incompetent, according to authorities and his former attorney.

Shannon J. Miles, 30, was being held without bond after an initial court hearing Monday. Prosecutors accuse him of opening fire from behind on Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth on Friday night in what the sheriff called a "cold-blooded assassination."

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Anderson read the probable cause statement during the hearing, saying police received a call of an officer down at 8:20 p.m. Friday. When police arrived at the gas station in the Houston suburb of Cypress, they found Deputy Darren Goforth facedown.

Goforth, 47, had been shot 15 times, Anderson said, adding that the gunman "unloaded the entire pistol into Deputy Goforth." She also said a witness saw the shooting and that the shell casings matched the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun found at Miles' home.

Anderson would not comment on a motive to reporters after the hearing.

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

Miles' criminal history dates back to 2005 and includes an arrest in Austin in 2012 that led to his being sent to a state mental hospital for several months.

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 was sent to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, Texas.

"From this case, you could never tell what would happen" in the future, Frederick said, adding that prosecutors treated the case as a "very serious offense" and had offered Miles a plea agreement of seven years in prison. Miles was declared mentally competent in February 2013, but the charge was dropped after the victim could not be located, Frederick said.

Jon Evans, Miles' attorney in the Austin case, said medical privacy laws prevent him from offering any details about Miles' mental illness history. But he was told by Miles' mother that her son had a lifelong history of mental illness.

At the time of the case in 2012, Miles "suffered from severe mental illness," Evans said.

President Obama called Goforth's widow Monday to offer condolences, the White House said.

In the White House statement, Obama said he had promised Kathleen Goforth "that I would continue to highlight the uncommon bravery that police officers show in our communities every single day. They put their lives on the line for our safety. Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable, an affront to civilized society."

Over the weekend, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said the attack was "clearly unprovoked," and there was no evidence that Goforth knew Miles.

"Our assumption is that [Goforth] was a target because he wore a uniform," the sheriff said.

Miles' criminal record begins in 2005, when he was convicted of criminal mischief, giving false information to police and resisting arrest, according to records. In 2006, he was convicted of disorderly conduct with a firearm and sentenced to a maximum of 15 days in jail. He was convicted of evading arrest in 2007, and his most recent conviction came in 2009 for again resisting arrest.

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Records show that the 30-year-old Houston resident was sentenced to several short stints in jail, from six to 10 days.

Goforth, 47, was pumping gas at a Chevron station Friday night in Cypress, a middle- to upper-middle-class suburban area of Harris County northwest of Houston, when the gunman approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground.

The killing evoked strong emotions in the local law enforcement community, with Hickman linking it to heightened tension over the treatment of African Americans by police. Goforth was white and Miles is black.

The nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement that formed after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., has sought sweeping reforms of policing. Related protests erupted in Texas recently after Sandra Bland, 28, a black woman from the Chicago area, was found dead in a county jail about 50 miles northwest of Houston three days after her arrest on a traffic violation. Texas authorities said she committed suicide, but her family is skeptical of that.

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