The roiling, murky waters left by Hurricane Harvey claimed the life of a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, authorities announced Tuesday.
Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, drowned when floodwaters sucked under his patrol car in downtown Houston as he tried to report for his regular shift at 4 a.m. Sunday.
Police Chief Art Acevedo, his eyes brimming with tears, told reporters at a press conference the sergeant’s wife had tried to keep him from venturing into the howling chaos, but Perez said it was his duty.
It wasn’t until Monday, when he didn’t show up for roll call, that his bone-tired colleagues realized he was missing. His wife, Cheryl, told them he hadn’t been home since he left Sunday morning.
Perez was “a sweet, gentle public servant,” Acevedo said.
Rescue crews believed Monday night they had found the area where Perez’s cruiser sank, but the waters were dangerous and, “we could not put more officers at risk for what we knew in our hearts would be a recovery mission,” the chief said.
A dive team recovered his remains from an underpass Tuesday.
His death brings the number of lives lost in the catastrophic storm that has buried Houston and outlying areas to 15.
Perez is survived by Cheryl, as well as a grown son and daughter.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said each city employee was giving more than 100 percent.
“Sometimes you find a way to make it happen or you die trying,” he said. “Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen; he tried to get at his post … That’s the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
The police chief said he told Perez’s wife that the sergeant died doing what he did best.
“How do you think he would have wanted to go, watching — or doing what he had been doing for 34 years?” Acevedo asked her.
That brought a smile to the widow’s face, he said.