By Mike Glenn
HOUSTON — Houston police officer John Calhoun didn't have any choice about wearing his protective vest when he was sent to investigate a call about a suspicious person.
HPD officials said that departmental requirement just might have saved his life.
Calhoun was shot about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday while struggling with an armed man near a bus stop along the 11900 block of Airline Drive in north Houston.
The round struck Calhoun in the side but never penetrated his body armor.
"He's lucky to be alive," said John Cannon, a Houston police spokesman.
Even after he was shot, Calhoun was able to draw his own pistol and return fire. The other man was struck and later died at Houston Northwest Medical Center, police said.
Calhoun, 28, was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital at the Texas Medical Center. "He's got very deep bruising and he says he's very sore," Cannon said.
Calhoun, a 6-year HPD veteran, and his partner were initially sent to investigate a minor car crash before a police dispatcher changed their assignment.
They were instead told to check out a report about a suspicious person with a gun. HPD classified it as a Priority 2 call, meaning no sirens but flashing strobe lights.
The caller gave the dispatcher a detailed description of the man, including his clothing and a backpack. The caller also said the man was smoking marijuana and holding a gun, Cannon said.
The HPD officers pulled up to the scene and saw a man standing slightly apart from several other people near a Metro bus stop. He matched the description including the backpack. They tried to speak to him.
"He instead grabbed his backpack and starts to walk away at a fast pace," Cannon said.
The two officers attempted to stop the man from leaving but he then began fighting with Calhoun. Both men fell to the ground during the struggle.
Calhoun's female partner was moving in to help when she heard what HPD officials described as a "distinctive popping sound."
"That was her partner getting shot in his vest," Cannon said.
Calhoun immediately returned fire, shooting the man more than once, police said.
Several backup officers arrived within minutes and began roping off the area. Houston police homicide and internal affairs detectives began questioning possible witnesses to the incident.
Paula Guevara lives in the apartment complex next to the bus stop. She joined a handful of others watching the police investigation.
"I think it's pretty scary," Guevara said. "We do see a lot of police officers around here. It's not uncommon to see a drug deal happening on the street in front of her apartment, Guevara said.
"I don't even come out because I'm scared of being shot," she said.
Houston police did not release the dead man's name and said his identity would be confirmed by Harris County medical examiners.
Calhoun will be on desk duty for three days and will be required to speak with an HPD psychologist.
"It's not by any means a punishment. It's standard procedure," Cannon said. "It's a very traumatic thing anytime an officer has to discharge a weapon."
Copyright 2014 the Houston Chronicle
McClatchy-Tribune News Service