Published: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 @ 12:48 PM
Updated: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 @ 3:36 PM
HOUSTON — A Houston police officer drowned Sunday morning when he was trapped by floodwaters brought to the region by Harvey, city officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Officials recovered the body of Sgt. Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, on Tuesday morning.
"He was a sweet, gentle public servant," police Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday at an emotional news conference. "He wasn't just taken from the Houston Police Department ... he was taken from the people of Houston."
Acevedo said Perez left his home for work at 4 a.m. Sunday as heavy rain fell in Houston. Perez was assigned to the city's traffic enforcement division, but he was unable to find a path to the station. During a roll call on Monday, his colleagues realized that Perez was missing from work. Authorities called his wife, who said she had not seen her husband since 4 a.m. the previous day.
"He was seeking to serve this city and all those who would come to our city," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
Authorities found his vehicle on Monday night. The Houston Chronicle, the first organization to report on Perez’s death, reported that his patrol car was found at Interstate 45 and the Hardy Toll road.
"It was too treacherous to go under (into the floodwaters) and look for him," Acevedo said, his voice cracking with emotion. He said officers kept watch over the area overnight. On Tuesday morning, a dive team was able to recover his body.
"In the darkness, Sgt. Perez drove under an underpass and drove into the water," Acevedo said.
"He was trying different routes, and took a wrong turn," an unidentified official told the Chronicle earlier Tuesday.
More than a dozen people have died in the days since Harvey slammed into the Texas coast on Friday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Harvey made landfall in Rockport as a Category 4 hurricane with winds topping 130 mph. It was downgraded Saturday to a tropical storm.