On Monday afternoon, looters reportedly fired on firefighters and rescue personnel while they were conducting rescue operations. Police were forced to halt their own rescue efforts in order to quickly move to protect the firefighters, according to The Daily Caller.
The incident occurred just north of downtown Houston at the intersection of Tidwell and Mesa. According to the Daily Caller, police said they had to divert rescue efforts to fend off the looters attacking rescue personnel.
“We had firefighters out there helping people, and looters started firing on them,” Houston Officer Joe Gamaldi told the Daily Caller on Tuesday morning. “We sent officers down there on a code 1 (which means as fast as you can) to assist, and they too came under fire.”
Gamaldi added that no one was injured during the incident.
“This was absolutely the most despicable and disgusting thing that you could imagine,” Gamaldi told the Daily Caller. “That our officers had to stop what they were doing, high water rescues and saving lives, to deal with looters firing at our officers and firefighters.”
Texas law enforcement ups punishments for looters
The office of District Attorney Brett Ligon, of neighboring Montgomery County, posted to Facebook that looters would face mandatory jail or prison time and noted that “state law also allows for enhanced punishment ranges for certain offenses committed during a declared natural disaster event.”
“Leniency and probation will be off the table for these offenses committed during this time,” Ligon said.
Looting during natural disasters is a common occurrence. Oftentimes when police and rescue personnel are busy attempting to save the lives of those in harm’s way, looters take the opportunity to steal with near impunity.
WPLG-TV tweeted a video of looters walking into grocery stores unimpeded and stealing property.
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) August 28, 2017
KTRK-TV reported that Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday that 14 looters are already in custody.
“This is the state of Texas. We are a welcoming city, but we are not going to tolerate people victimizing others,” Acevedo said.
“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg told KTRK.
Normally, burglary carries with it a sentence between two and 20 years. However, at this time, sentences can range from five years to life in prison, according to KTRK.
Fayette County Sheriff’s Department also issued a statement from Facebook notifying looters that they will not be tolerated and added that if the citizens catch them before police do, they “may not make it to jail.”
Houston residents ready to use deadly force
As the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department suggested, also common are citizens who threaten to utilize firearms to defend their property. Signs that read “looters will be shot on sight” or “you loot, we shoot” are frequently seen in front of homes and businesses in the aftermath of natural disasters.
In the state of Texas, it is legal for a property owner to utilize deadly force against those committing burglary or theft on personal property.
One woman, angered by news of the looters causing problems around Houston, posted a video encouraging legal gun owners to shoot looters.
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— Rosie Unmasked (@almostjingo) August 30, 2017