Texas person of interest, deputy killed in ambush identified as state lends support in active manhunt

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that state authorities are joining the manhunt for the person of interest in the ambush shooting of a Houston-area deputy overnight.

Authorities in and around Houston are on the hunt for Ronnie Palmer, 44, in connection with the line of duty death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Fernando Esqueda.

The deputy was 28 years old and a five-year veteran of the force, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez wrote on X, adding that he was personally in the field as part of the manhunt.


Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Fernando Esqueda in uniform in front of a US flag in this portrait in front of a blue backdrop

Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Fernando Esqueda in uniform in front of a US flag in this portrait provided by the sheriff. Esqueda was shot and killed early Thursday and a manhunt is underway for a person of interest. (Harris County Sheriff)

Palmer is considered a person of interest in the shooting and is also wanted for an aggravated assault at a Little Ceasar’s pizzeria on Wallisville Road in East Harris County.

An enraged customer at the pizza place allegedly pistol whipped a worker and fled. As authorities searched for the suspect in that case, Esqueda was ambushed while on the phone with another detective, authorities said Thursday.

Backup arrived found and Esqueda’s vehicle riddled with bullet holes on the 13200 block of Italian Cypress Trail around 1 a.m. Thursday. He had been shot multiple times.


Ronnie Palmer photo on a blue backdrop

Ronnie Palmer has been identified as a person of interest in the murder and is wanted in connection with an assault. (Harris County Sheriff)

Esqueda was a member of “a very elite task force,” Chief Deputy Mike Lee told reporters.

“This group, every day, goes out and hunts down child rapists, homicide suspects, some of the most egregious criminals out there and that’s what they do every day for a living,” Lee said. “And he was very good at his job. Very well thought of.”


Sheriff Gonzalez holds a press conference flanked by deputies

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez speaks to the media on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Houston, regarding the line-of-duty death of Deputy John Hampton Coddou. On Thursday, he announced the death of yet another deputy, Fernando Esqueda, and announced a manhunt for a person of interest in the case. (Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

Fellow deputies rushed him to the hospital in a patrol vehicle in critical condition. He succumbed to his injuries.

Abbott vowed the state’s full support to local police as they seek the gunman.

“Whenever our law enforcement officers put on the badge, they are selflessly risking their lives,” he said in a statement. “Violence against law enforcement officers will never be tolerated in Texas.”

He said state troopers and special agents were assisting in the manhunt.

Harris County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Mike Lee said the 28-year-old detective was "apparently ambushed" after locating what he believed to be the vehicle belonging to an aggravated assault suspect.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Lee said the 28-year-old detective was “apparently ambushed” after locating what he believed to be the vehicle belonging to an aggravated assault suspect. (Harris County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook)

“Please join Cecilia and me in prayer for Deputy Esqueda’s family, loved ones, and the entire Harris County community,” he added.


Authorities are asking anyone with information on Palmer’s whereabouts to contact Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).

“None of us are ever prepared for such an untimely death and our members need your prayers and support,” Gonzalez said. “Our thoughts are with his family as they come to terms with this horrible news.”

He vowed to bring the killer to justice.

Fox News’ Elizabeth Pritchett and Greg Norman contributed to this report.

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