Officer shot four times, suspect dies

(BAYTOWN, Texas) -- A Baytown police officer was shot four times and wounded in a residential street shootout but killed a man reportedly harassing his ex-girlfriend early Friday, authorities said.

Scott James, the first Baytown officer shot in the line of duty since 1978, survived because he was wearing body armor, said Keith Dougherty, a police spokesman.

James, 30, a Baytown officer for seven years, was in good condition late Friday at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

His bulletproof vest had mostly shielded him from two bullets that hit his upper chest and lower abdomen, authorities said. The other two bullets went through his forearm and left arm.

Guadalupe Gonzalez Morales, 49, of the 3200 block of Illinois, was pronounced dead at San Jacinto Methodist Hospital in Baytown. He had been shot in the arm, leg and head by James with a 10 mm handgun.

Police said the shooting occurred about 4 a.m. when James responded to a second complaint from Carolina Padilla, 34, that Morales, her ex-boyfriend, was trying to force his way into her house in the 300 block of Gresham.

Padilla first called police at 2:16 a.m. to report Morales had broken a front window, police said. She and her daughter and two sons were there while her husband was at work, neighbors said.

"When officer James arrived (the first time), Morales was gone," Dougherty said. "Morales also couldn't be found at his house, where he lives with his wife. So officer James issued a citation for criminal mischief for breaking the window and left it with his family."

Police said a second complaint less than two hours later reported that Morales was beating on the front door of Padilla's house.

Padilla declined comment.

Police said Padilla was talking on the telephone with a police dispatcher when James arrived. Gunfire can be heard, after which Padilla began screaming that the officer had been shot, the tape-recorded telephone conversation shows.

Police said that when James asked Morales what he was doing there, the man turned and opened fire with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.

James sought cover near his patrol car and returned fire, police said.

"The gunfire woke up the whole neighborhood. I heard at least 12 shots," said Jose Fernandez, 35, who lives across the street. "I saw rescue workers cut off the officer's bloody uniform, looking for wounds while others were giving CPR to the other man. A big crowd had gathered."

Fernandez's wife, Marta, 34, said they didn't know Morales, but she would sometimes see him drinking in his truck as he drove past Padilla's house.

Dougherty said James has a reputation of being a good officer. "It's very traumatic to be involved in a shooting," he said.

James was consoled Friday by his two brothers, also police officers.

Greg James, 40, a 20-year veteran with the Pasadena Police Department, said he twice had to return fire during which one man was wounded and another killed.

"Police work is not like the military, where your job is to find and kill people," he said. "We want to help people, but sometimes we have to use deadly force. It's not something you want to happen. Luckily, most officers never have to use their weapons."

Greg James said he wants to be there for his brother "to lean on" because it helps to talk with somebody who has experienced a similar situation.

"My parents are proud of us," he said. "They're not upset with us for doing this kind of work. We try to be as safe as we can."

Baytown police say the killing of Morales will be reviewed by a Harris County grand jury.

(iSyndicate; The Houston Chronicle; Nov. 11, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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