As Charlotte Darks drove toward her cul-de-sac on the way home from work with her 24-year-old daughter Thursday evening, a law enforcement officer wearing a SWAT uniform stopped them a few blocks from their house.
“What street do you live on?” the officer asked her.
“Silhouette Ridge,” Darks replied.
“Oh,” he said. “It’s about to get pretty nasty.”
In the following hours, law enforcement used heavily armored vehicles to bash gaping holes in a house on Darks’ northeast Harris County street, employing unusually aggressive tactics to end a dramatic five-hour standoff with manhunt suspect Terran Green.
Using the hydraulic arm of a vehicle known as the Rook, authorities smashed into the second floor of the residence until a shirtless Green, wanted in the shootings of three law enforcement officers, climbed onto the armored limb. Law enforcement authorities then lowered Green to the ground, appearing to point laser-equipped rifles at him, and took him into custody.
“It really was something just out of the movies, seeing how they operated when things came toward the end,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
The strategy brought a peaceful conclusion to the daylong manhunt for Green, 34, who prosecutors said they plan to charge with four counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer.
Authorities said Green shot Harris County sheriff’s deputy Joseph Anderson during a Wednesday evening traffic stop and fled the scene. Green also shot at three law enforcement officers, hitting two of them, when they descended on a property in search of the suspect.
Green had a warrant for his arrest at the time of his first shooting, the result of his failure to show up for a court hearing in May. He had been free on $50,000 bond related to an aggravated assault charge and $5,000 bond for a charge of illegally possessing a firearm.
Anderson was in “critical but stable condition” and improving Thursday night, though he “suffered a bit of a setback in his recovery” Friday, Gonzalez said on social media. The three officers injured at the standoff scene have been released from the hospital, Gonzalez said.
The standoff tactics prompted questions Friday about the decision to cause extensive damage to a property and added another chapter to the national debate over law enforcement’s use of expensive, military-style equipment.
Michael Hill, the owner of the property damaged by police, said law enforcement officials “certainly didn’t ask for permission” before destroying sections of the house. Hill said FBI officials did contact him Thursday evening, but only to ask for floor plans to the residence.
“It’s obviously shocking,” said Hill, who had been renting the property to a tenant. “I don’t know a lot about the circumstances. I can imagine they felt like they needed to act quickly. It seems a little extreme to me, but I don’t know whether they could have waited longer.”
In a follow-up statement Thursday, Harris County sheriff’s spokesperson Jason Spencer said the agency’s “top priority in these situations is to preserve human life, even if that means damaging some property.”
Video of the standoff broadcast by ABC13 captured the dramatic hours leading up to Green’s arrest. Two heavily armed vehicles circled the property for hours, at various points bashing into the home to create large holes. A drone and a robotic dog were seen entering the property.
Nearly five hours into the standoff, a SWAT officer guided the Rook’s hydraulic arm into a second-floor corner where Green was hiding, sending clothes from an apparent closet tumbling to the ground. After several minutes, Green hopped onto the arm.
“These situations are not all textbook where it happens a certain way,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to improvise a little bit.”
Law enforcement officials have defended their purchase and use of the machines, arguing they can be used to help end standoffs peacefully.
Critics, however, often argue that the technology is excessively expensive and contributes to the militarization of law enforcement. In the most extreme case, Dallas police in 2016 killed the man accused of fatally shooting five officers by detonating explosives attached to a robot sent into his vicinity.
Harris County records show the Commissioners Court approved a $276,000 bid from Rook dealer Ring Power Corporation for the machine and a trailer in 2019. Houston City Council members also approved the purchase of a $329,000 armored vehicle from Ring Power Corporation through a grant fund in 2020.
Justin Rutherford, a sales representative for the Rook dealer Ring Power Corporation, estimated about 80 law enforcement agencies across the country use the armored vehicle. The machine is a piece of construction equipment that has been modified for law enforcement purposes.
“It’s like a chess piece,” Rutherford said. “So when the Rook shows up, it’s pretty much checkmate. Game over.”
In a statement, Ring Power Corporation officials said they “would like to salute” law enforcement officials for resolving the standoff without any deaths.
Jay Coons, a clinical assistant professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University, said the Rook came out about 15 years ago and has been used in the industry for years. It is essentially an old Melroe Bobcat, he said.
The tactic used to demolish the house during the standoff is known as a “break and rake,” Coons said.
“It gives you a better capability to make entry,” he said. “It also gives you a better capability to see where that suspect is, and lastly it’s unnerving to the suspect because literally that house is being taken down around their ears. So that’s what the Rook is used for.”
When SWAT teams were first developed in the mid-1960s, one of the first tactics would be to surround the location and wait the suspect out. If the suspect didn’t come out, plan B would be to breach the door and storm the location, Coons said.
However, breaching doors and making entry in a structure with armed suspects is extremely dangerous, he said. A new philosophy developed within the tactical community that focused on surrounding and communicating with the suspect. Additionally, instead of risking lives by sending in an entry team, police began sending in robots.
“The robot can breach the door and can go in, no officers are involved, and it’s much less threatening to the suspect than an entry team,” Coons said.
‘A very quiet place’
Residents of the Sunset Ridge West neighborhood continued to buzz Friday about the standoff that rattled their typically placid community.
Craig Brown, who has lived across the street from the destroyed home for 15 years, said the sound of several gunshots echoed across his cul-de-sac Thursday evening after police arrived at the scene. Brown’s Ring camera captured authorities leading his neighbor and her two sons out of the house and into the back of a patrol car after the shots were fired.
“It’s always quiet around here,” Brown, a 26-year U.S. Army veteran, said late Friday morning. “I’m just glad (Green) wasn’t dead.”
Brown, 55, said he had befriended the woman who rented the home, helping her change a car tire and carry a washing machine onto the second floor in the past week. On Friday afternoon, the washing machine perilously dangled from the edge of the house, visible from the street.
Down the street from Brown, Giovanni Cabrera recalled watching the standoff unfold outside his home a few hours after the initial shots were fired at officers.
In an attempt to flush Green out from the house, officers deployed tear gas that wafted throughout the neighborhood shortly before 9 p.m. Cabrera immediately picked up his 8-year-old daughter from their driveway and rushed inside as she wailed from the sting of the gas.
“I just hope Terran Green finds solace, but understands the ripple effect of what he’s done,” Cabrera said Friday morning. “Not just to his family but the families in this neighborhood, too.”
Hill, who has owned the damaged property since 2009, said he has been renting the 1,650-square-foot residence to a tenant for three or four years. He did not know the connection between the tenant and Green. Gonzalez said investigators believe Green knew someone living at the house, but details of the relationship were not known.
“It’s been a very quiet place until now,” Hill said. “It’s a developing area, quite a nice area from what I’ve seen.”
Hill added that he started the insurance claim process Friday morning, though he didn’t know who will ultimately bear responsibility for the damage.
Coons, the Sam Houston State University clinical assistant professor, said Harris County likely wouldn’t pay for the property damage due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects the government from lawsuits.
“No, I’m afraid whoever owns that home is going to be on the hook – them and their insurance company,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Harris County Attorney’s Office, which handles civil litigation, declined to comment.
Green is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday. Prosecutors said they will ask a judge to deny bail on each of Green’s charges.
“The intent was there to commit a murder, an intentional killing and a knowing killing, of a peace officer while they were acting in the line of duty,” said Katie Warren, a division chief with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. “(Capital murder) is the most appropriate charge at this time.”
Green did not have a lawyer listed in county records Friday.
Asked whether anyone at the home where Green was taken into custody will be charged, Warren said prosecutors are “still considering evidence from lots of sources.”
Warren added that Green’s brother, James, who was initially named by law enforcement as a suspect in the case, has not been charged because he was not an active participant in the shooting of Anderson. James Green was in the vehicle that fled the scene of the shooting. Sheriff’s officials later confirmed he voluntarily came forward to speak with investigators and was released.
“In order to be a true party to a crime, you have to do something that provides actual affirmative help, aid or encouragement to the crime,” Warren said.
Terran Green’s fugitive status prior to the shootings has renewed criticism about Harris County’s bail system.
Supporters of bail reform have successfully pushed in recent years for changes that allow more defendants charged with misdemeanors to remain free, often arguing that pretrial detention is unnecessary and discriminatory against lower-income people. Opponents of the changes have said more lenient bail policies make the county less safe. The recent reforms did not apply to felony cases.
Following his arrest in March on a charge of aggravated assault, prosecutors filed a motion seeking a hearing to deny bail to Green. They cited his history of at least two prior felony convictions and allegations that he used a firearm in the assault. A judge ultimately set his bail at $50,000. It was not immediately clear whether the hearing took place.
Andy Kahan, director of victim services at Crime Stoppers Houston, said the Green case showed why more information on individuals who failed to show up to court hearings and forfeited bond should be made public, particularly for defendants accused of violent crimes.
“How many other Terran Greens are out there who are bond forfeiture fugitives? No one seems to know,” Kahan said. “Perhaps we could get a tip that could lead to their arrest before they get involved in shootouts.”
Staff writers Alex Stuckey and Monique Welch contributed to this report.