By Mike Glenn
The Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON, Texas — A man accused of shooting an off-duty Houston police officer was found dead Sunday in a thick grove of woods near the westside apartment complex where the officer was wounded, authorities said.
The gunman, identified by police as Eric Titov, 22, apparently shot himself in the head following a violent confrontation about midnight with HPD officer Victor Hill at the Reserve by the Lake Apartments, 18600 South Park View, police said.
It was unclear Sunday whether Titov committed suicide or shot himself accidentally.
"Looks like his shorts fell down to his thighs; he may have actually tripped," HPD homicide Capt. Steve Jett said. "And, trying to catch himself with his hands, wound up pulling the trigger as he was falling."
Investigators said Titov shot Hill while the officer, who lives at the complex, was questioning him about a car battery he was carrying.
"I think he (Titov) was just straight-up burglarizing cars," said Sgt. Paul Motard, with HPD's homicide division. "He was very high on drugs and acting in a bizarre manner."
Hill, a 14-year veteran assigned to HPD's Northwest Patrol Division, handcuffed Titov behind his back, as is department policy.
"The suspect produced a pistol from his back waistband and fired upward," HPD spokeswoman Johanna Abad said.
Although he was off-duty at the time, Hill was wearing an HPD raid jacket — with the word POLICE across his chest.
"He (Titov) shot him right through the 'P' in police," Motard said.
Hill was listed in critical condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital late Sunday.
Titov also pointed the pistol at an apartment complex employee who was with Hill but did not fire, police said. Investigators said Titov, his hands still cuffed behind his back, ran away and apparently vaulted over a waist-high fence running along the north edge of the complex.
The shooting set off a large-scale search of the area that lasted throughout the night. Police helicopters flew over the scene as HPD canine units searched for the gunman along the wooded area near Addicks Reservoir.
The manhunt ended about 1 p.m. Sunday when Titov's body was spotted in the woods about 50 feet from the complex by a HPD helicopter using an infrared camera, Jett said.
"He was still cuffed, but the cuffs are in front," Motard said.
"He has the gun in his right hand and he has two bullets in his left hand. We don't know the significance of why he has two live rounds in his left hand."
Police later Sunday were continuing to question Titov's acquaintances. They said he originally was from Russia but had lived in Houston for about 12 years.
Apartment resident Carlos Varela said he did not hear the gunfire, but he saw helicopters overhead and a number of officers in the complex later.
"It's crazy. It's the first time I've ever heard about something like this," said Varela, who has lived in the complex almost four years. "Sometimes I leave my garage door open and nothing happens. Now, my wife is telling me not to do that."
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Houston officer shot by suspect in handcuffs