Officer Anthony Marco Zarate, 52, had completed a routine traffic stop near Meyerland Plaza when employees of the Target in the shopping center flagged him down and reported a theft, police said. Zarate pulled over the shoplifters in the plaza parking lot when the two took off.
Zarate pursued the vehicle. He turned onto the 8500 block of Ferris Drive toward Beechnut Street and crashed into a parked trailer.
When officers arrived, Zarate was unconscious and not breathing, according to Bellaire Police Chief Byron Holloway. He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
“Officer Zarate was a great guy,” Holloway said. “He always had a smile on his face.”
Zarate started with the Bellaire Police Department in 2009, Holloway said. He is married with three daughters and is a veteran.
Holloway said Zarate’s death is much like the many officers nationwide who die weekly while in the line of duty.
“Yes, (Zarate’s death) is tied to something greater,” Holloway said, “but it’s not tied to what is going on in our nation right now. This was a police officer doing his job for the community that he loved. He lost his life in the line of duty just like American police officers do every two to three days in this country.
“The narrative that’s going on now has nothing to do with it. It’s day in, day out dedication of the men and women of law enforcement doing their job, serving their communities and all they want to do is go home at the end of their shift and love their families.”
Police are still searching for the two men whom Zarate was pursuing.
The men are only described as two black men, according to Houston Police Department Spokesman Victor Senties.
Senties said the two possibly used a box cutter to take off antitheft devices from merchandise within Target. Anyone with information on them is urged to contact either HPD or BPD.