KATY/FORT BEND COUNTY (Covering Katy News) – Two robbery suspects are dead and two other suspects are in custody after a gunfight along Westheimer Parkway near South Mason Road late Tuesday night. The two roadways near the scene were shut down for several hours during the early morning hours Wednesday while the investigation was ongoing.
“A joint task force was following these individuals who are suspected of robbing 8 different stores,” Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Stephen Woodard told Covering Katy News.
The robberies have happened in Fort Bend and Harris Counties. Investigators from both Sheriff’s Offices are involved in solving the violent crime spree. The violent task force had members from several different state and local agencies who were participating in the surveillance.
“We were just doing surveillance. We did not have any information that a robbery was going to happen tonight,” said Jason Taylor of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
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Task force members watched as the individuals went inside and robbed the Walgreens Store at the corner of Westheimer Parkway at South Mason Road at about 11:50 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2019. There was a fourth suspect waiting outside the drug store.
“We don’t know if there were any customers in the store at the time,” Taylor said.
When the suspects left the store there was a very brief foot chase. Woodard said the suspects fired on the task force members who returned fire. Two of the four suspects were killed. One died at the front gate of an apartment complex next door to the Walgreens. The other died at the hospital. The two other suspects were arrested and are being questioned.
“This is a violent crew that has been on a crime spree for the last two weeks or so,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez who was on the scene late Tuesday night. He said the suspects are in their early twenties and have been robbing local drugs stores like Walgreens.
A white pickup truck was recovered that investigators believe has been used in other robberies.
There were numerous law enforcement agencies at the scene including the Texas Rangers, the Department of Public Safety, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, and Constables from Fort Bend County Precinct 3 and Harris County Precinct 5. The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office will lead the investigation because the Walgreens store is in Fort Bend.
“This has been a 14-day investigation,” Woodard said.
A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter hovered over the scene taking photos during the early morning hours, waking some neighbors who live near the crime scene.
Several people who live in the apartment complex next to Walgreens waited for hours to be allowed back into their apartments. The active crime scene was in front of the Aston at Cinco Ranch Apartments at 22400 Westheimer Parkway.
“There is only one way in and one way out,” said Andre Zipay who lives at the complex during the week. He works in Houston but lives in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I have to be at work in the morning,” he said while he sat in his car in the nearby Kroger parking lot during the early morning hours. “It’s been four hours,” he said.
“I didn’t have my wallet. I only had a dollar in my pocket so I went to Wendy’s, just up the street, because I got hungry,” he said. “The clerk gave me extra fries,” he added. “Then they gave me a Frosty and baked potato.”
When Sgt. Woodard learned that there were several people who’d been waiting hours to get back into their apartments he began looking for a way for them to return without disrupting the crime scene.
Zipay said several of his neighbors heard the gunshots and he was glad that no one was injured at the Aston apartments. He was also thankful that he was safe.
“I go for a walk between 8 and 10 most night and this could have happened while I was walking,” he added.
None of the law enforcement officials were injured, except for one who suffered a small cut to the knee from broken glass.
The investigation is ongoing.
See video of the news conference and photos below.