Houston Police say 60-year-old Sgt. Steve Perez, trying to get to work despite Hurricane Harvey, drowned in his patrol car in floodwaters.
In a somber news conference Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Perez's wife, Cheryl, had asked her husband not to report to work Sunday morning. But Perez, who had been on the police force for 34 years and was just a few days short of his 61st birthday, insisted on going in.
"Unfortunately in the darkness, Sgt. Perez drove into an underpass that's about 16 1/2 feet, drove into the water and he died in a drowning-type event," said Acevedo, his eyes moistening.
"Steve is one of the sweetest people in this department and I've been here only nine months. We have 6,500 employees and I knew who Steve Perez was because he was a sweet, gentle public servant."
Perez's father-in-law, a Korean War combat veteran, also told him not to go because the conditions were so bad. "And his response was, 'We've got work to do,' " said Acevedo.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Perez was typical of all of the city employees working flood relief.
"Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying. Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post ... that's the ultimate sacrifice," said Turner, as quoted by the Houston Chronicle.
Perez left his home at 4 a.m. Sunday but was unable to get to his duty station in downtown Houston. Following protocol, he apparently was trying to report to another station in Kingwood. His body was found Monday night, but officers could not recover it from the water until Tuesday.
Perez is survived by his wife and an adult son and daughter.