Business Owner and Deputy Exchange Gunfire After Mistaking Each Other for the Suspect While Both Were Responding to a Burglary

HOUSTON, TEXAS – A double-sided case of mistaken identity led to a business owner and a sheriff’s deputy exchanging gunfire as each thought the other was the suspect in a burglary that they were responding to. The unfortunate chain of events unfolded on the evening of March 23rd in Harris County, Texas. Fortunately, neither the officer or business owner was seriously injured or killed in the shootout.

It began when the 72-year-old owner of a trucking supply store located at 13600 Ralph Culliver Road called to report a burglary at his business after witnessing it on live video at his home around 11:45 p.m. After the call, the owner left his house and headed for his business, unaware that a deputy was on the scene.

Upon arriving at his business and seeing another person there, he mistook the deputy for the robber and began shooting at him.  The 27-year-old deputy, reacting to the gunfire, returned fire and wounded the owner in the shoulder. The deputy was heard saying over the police radio, “Yeah, he was walking towards me. He just started firing and I haven’t even checked the business.”

Investigators trying to sort out the events of the evening say that the owner was dressed similarly to the robber that he described in his call – a white male in a black shirt. The owner fired first, causing the officer to return fire.

From the owner’s perspective, there were no flashing blue lights to indicate that an officer was on the scene when he arrived. “The deputy’s car was blacked out because he was responding to a burglary call…so he [the shop owner] mistook the deputy for the burglar,” said Major Susan Cotter of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

The officer was not injured, and the owner was treated at a local hospital and is expected to fully recover.  The incident is still under investigation and authorities have not speculated whether the owner may face any charges for opening fire on the officer.

One of the basic rules of gun safety is to “be sure of your target”. In low light conditions, a good handheld or weapon mounted light is an absolute necessity in being able to identify your target. This incident could have ended much, much worse with both the law enforcement officer and the business owner being shot dead by each other in a simple case of mistaken identity.

From the facts that are known, it would appear that the owner was not justified in firing on the officer, who had not made any threatening moves toward him and who he failed to properly identify before pulling the trigger. The officer had no choice but to return fire, as his life was in danger and the man firing at him fit the general description of the burglary suspect.

Let’s look at some lessons learned the hard way from this incident…1) don’t dress like the suspect that you report, 2) don’t respond to a scene with a gun and actively insert yourself into the situation if police have been dispatched. 3) if you don’t have a quality light, buy one and learn how to use it anytime that indoor or outdoor lighting conditions make it difficult or impossible to know your target, 4) don’t shoot at persons who are not an immediate threat to you.

And don’t go to the scene. That’s why you called the police in the first

About the Author

Edgar Lee is a contributor for Concealed Nation. After spending 20 years in the fire service, he is currently in his second career as a business and technology manager, and he and his wife are successful small business owners.

Outside of work his interests include camping, hiking, fishing, metal detecting, home improvement projects and motorcycling. He also enjoys reading biographies and auto biographies, military history, and writing about modern-day personal safety and security. He has visited much of the continental US, but still considers his home state of North Carolina as his favorite.

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