Last November Houston police officers arrested and charged 24-year-old Soliz for the murder of Sergeant Sean Rios. Soliz had a criminal history dating back to 2014 that included misdemeanor and felony convictions as well as bond forfeitures, and at the time of the alleged shooting, Soliz was free on $100 bond for carrying a handgun in a motor vehicle.
With bonds set at $500,000 for murder and $200,000 for charges of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, on Tuesday evening Soliz posted bond and was released under conditions set by the 179th Criminal Court under Judge Ana Martinez.
Just hours earlier Acevedo, who is leaving Houston to become chief of the Miami Police Department in a few weeks, denounced Harris County judges during an emotionally charged press conference.
“The people are being victimized every day in Harris County because we have judges that continue to give away the store to violent criminals, and we have people who run the county who don’t care enough to actually fight back.”
Although misdemeanor bond policies in Harris County are subject to terms of a federal lawsuit settlement decree, bonds for felony suspects are still set at the discretion of elected judges and their appointed magistrates. Many of these court officials have adopted a more lenient approach in accordance with a criminal justice reform movement that opposes nearly all pretrial detention regardless of a suspect’s alleged crimes or criminal history.
Until recently, suspects charged with capital murder or murder of a law enforcement officer were automatically given “no bond” prior to trial.
Acevedo called allegations that he is against bond reform “a lie,” and said that he supports reforms that keep anyone in jail simply because they cannot afford to post bail, but added that he preferred a risk assessment approach that analyzed risks to public safety.
According to Houston Crime Stoppers’ victim advocate Andy Kahan, there have now been 103 murder victims in the past two years who were allegedly killed by suspects out on multiple felony bonds or multiple personal recognizance (PR) bonds.
In the latest example highlighted by Kahan, Juan Carlos Bartolo was out on two felony PR bonds when he allegedly murdered 20-year-old Jessica Ruiz and her 21-year-old brother Luis Ruiz this month. His bonds, issued by the 184th Criminal Court under Judge Abigail Anastasio, were forfeited in February of 2020 but he was at large at the time of the murders on March 10 of 2021.
In reference to the region’s rising homicide rate, which increased 42 percent in 2020 and includes 96 new murders so far this year, Acevedo praised his Houston police officers but said that a quality team did not matter when there was what he called a “revolving door” at the courthouse.
Acevedo became visibly angry at a reporter’s question about whether his Houston police force was to blame for the homicide numbers.
“I find it offensive that you or somebody else is blaming the cops,” Acevedo shot back.
“Because these cops are getting shot, they’re getting killed, and for what? Get those courts open, if they don’t want to work, get out.”
Turning the question back to reporters, Acevedo demanded, “Why aren’t you guys going to the courts, camping out, and asking these judges to get out of the shadow and start answering questions?”
“These cops are doing their jobs. We had three officers shot and killed. Why aren’t you asking the questions as to how those guys, some of them are on bonds…those officers should be alive!”
“And I’m angry.”
Acevedo said he had repeatedly asked for meetings with the district judges ever since he took over as department chief, but that none had taken place.
He also noted that because residents knew suspects were unlikely to be detained, witnesses were afraid to report or testify about criminal activity in high-crime Houston neighborhoods.
“We’ve got to get the courts back to work,” pleaded Acevedo.
Compared to other large cities, Houston has fewer police officers per capita with a force of 5,400 officers for an estimated population of 2.3 million.
The department has faced issues of police integrity in relation to the Harding Street Raid incident for which multiple police officers have been indicted on charges of fraud and officers Gerald Goines and Felipe Gallegos were charged with the murders of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas.
Acevedo said his team uncovered the problems related to the Harding Street incident and that he will return to help prosecute those officers as well as officers in other cases involving police misconduct.
Born in Cuba, Acevedo has served as chief of the California Highway Patrol and the Austin Police Department. He will assume responsibilities in Miami in a few weeks and hinted that his replacement in Houston, to be named by Mayor Sylvester Turner, may come from within the department.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.