In the early morning of Oct. 16, three Harris County Precinct 4 deputies were tragically ambushed by a gunman, resulting in the death of Deputy Kareem Atkins, who perished from his injuries.
Deputies Juqaim Barthen, 26, and Darrell Garrett, 28, were both wounded in the shooting. Barthen had just joined Precinct 4 in September 2019. Garrett joined in March 2018.
According to Constable Mark Herman, the circumstances unfolded during the middle of the night; the deputies were working an extra shift at 45 Norte Bar and responded to a report of a robbery in the parking lot at 2:12 a.m. Garrett and Atkins responded to the report and attempted to arrest a robbery suspect, but the gunman opened fire behind the officers, shooting both. Barthen heard the shots and rushed outside to aid the two downed officers, but he was also shot. The gunman used an AR-15 in the vicious attack.
A $75,000 reward is currently outstanding for information leading to the arrest of the attacker. Crime Stoppers donated $10,000 to the award and Houston businessman Tilman Fertitta, with the help of an anonymous donor, donated $65,000.
Garrett was seriously injured. He was immediately transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital in downtown Houston, where he underwent surgery. His fiance, Lajah Richardson, stated that both of his kidneys and gallbladder were removed and one of the bullets struck his spine. In the future, a kidney transplant will be needed. Sadly, it had just been a week since Richardson and Garrett had become engaged.
Barthen was shot in the leg and is currently recovering from his injuries at home.
Atkins is survived by his widow, 2-year-old daughter and 2-month-old baby; he had just returned from paternity leave before the night’s tragic events.
Richardson described the three officers as “brothers” who “did everything together.” The three had been close for a long time, and they shared a close friendship both inside and outside of work.
On Oct. 16, Atkins’ body was transported to the Texas Medical Examiner’s office. Law enforcement agencies from across Harris County participated in the procession.
“Deputies Atkins, Garrett and Barthen are true law enforcement heroes that were cowardly ambushed while serving and protecting their community. I am asking for all our community’s thoughts and prayers for their families. My main concern right now are the families of the three officers involved and getting them the immediate care and support that they are going to need,” said Herman.
Upon receiving Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s request, Gov. Greg Abbott permitted Texas flags in Harris County to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Atkins. Abbott stated that flags may remain at half-staff until the end of the day of Atkins’ final interment. Individuals, businesses, municipalities, counties and other entities in the area may fly flags at half-staff for the same period as a sign of honor and respect.
In a letter to Hidalgo, Abbott stated, “The first lady and I extend our prayers of comfort to the Atkins family during their time of grief, and we urge all Texans to remember and honor Deputy Constable Atkins’s public service as a dedicated law enforcement officer.”
On Oct. 17, law enforcement agencies moved Atkins’ body from the medical examiner’s office to the Klein Funeral Home in Tomball, Texas. The visitation and funeral service was held Oct. 25 at Champions Forest Baptist Church with burial at Klein Memorial Park Cemetery.
The 100 Club, which supports the dependents of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed or seriously injured in the line of duty, met with fallen Atkins’ wife and family members, and provided a $20,000 check to assist with immediate expenses. Herman provided the family with a personal $10,000 check. The Texas Municipal Police Association gave Atkins' widow a check for $15,000.
One can donate to The 100 Club (The100Club.org) or to one of three verified Go Fund Me pages to support the deputies:
The case remains under investigation by the Houston Police Department. Anyone with information regarding the shooting is urged to report it to the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS.