Houston, TX – Liberty County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Deputy Richard Whitten died in the line of duty on Monday due to complications stemming from being shot in the neck by a murder suspect.
The series of events that led up to Deputy Whitten being shot began on May 28, 2019, when 65-year-old Pavol Vido went to a plumbing business in the 26300-block of Highway 321/Houston Street and fatally shot a female secretary, KTRK reported.
Then the gunman waited overnight inside the business and opened fire on two male victims when they arrived for work the next morning.
Both men were wounded in the attack, and one later died at a local hospital, KTRK reported.
Police were notified of the incident shortly before 7:30 a.m., when the victims were found by other employees as they arrived at work.
Deputy Whitten, who was on his way to a training class, had just driven by the plumbing business when the request for help went out over the radio, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
He immediately spun around and headed towards the scene just as Vido was fleeing in a vehicle.
A Cleveland Independent School District police officer and Deputy Whitten both pursued the gunman onto CR2243.
A moment later, Vido veered off into the parking lot of the Big Thicket Veterinary Clinic, where a gunfight ensued, KTRK reported.
“The suspect jumped out of his car, started shooting at the deputy, the deputy returned fire. The deputy was shot one time in the throat,” Liberty County Sheriff’s Captain Ken DeFoor said.
The manager of the veterinary office where the deputy was shot said there would probably have been even more victims had Deputy Whitten not intervened, KHOU reported.
“I just heard all the commotion and walked out the back door. I saw him standing there with a gun pointed towards the policeman,” Lisa Bettilyon told KHOU. “He was standing there, pointing the gun towards the cops. Very scary. Very, very scary.”
“He was just determined. He had a gun pointed straight at them. He was set to hurt somebody, absolutely,” Bettilyon said.
The suspect fled in a white 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis. That vehicle was later found east of Huffman, not far from the original shooting scene at the plumbing company.
Multiple departments participated in the manhunt for Vido, which included police K9s and mounted units, KTRK reported.
They set up a perimeter around an area nearby where the gunman’s vehicle was found.
Vido was ultimately found dead in the early afternoon by a corrections bloodhound, police said.
He had been hiding under a boat outside a home that law enforcement had surrounded, about a mile-and-a-half away from the plumbing business, KHOU reported.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Erik Burse said Vido fatally shot himself, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Deputies believe the motive for the shootings was connected to a recent eviction notice that was served on Vido, KHOU reported.
Vido, a transient, had been living in a shipping container located behind B Dependable Plumbing and the owners wanted him out, Sgt. Burse said.
Deputy Whitten was airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital in critical condition, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
The bullet instantly paralyzed the four-year veteran-of-the-force, the Bluebonnet News reported.
His wife of 26 years, Kami, was at work when the LCSO called her to tell her that a deputy was coming to get her.
“I didn’t even know he was shot at first. I thought he had been in an accident when they first called me,” she later told the Bluebonnet News. “The sheriff’s office said it was going to send a deputy to me and that Richard was being taken by LifeFlight to Memorial Hermann. I was in a meeting and I just remember dropping the phone.”
Deputy Whitten remained in a medically-induced coma in the intensive care unit for a month, but continued making steady improvements as the months went on.
“I did what I had to do, and got shot, but it’s like I told my wife, I would do it all over again,” he told the Bluebonnet News in September of 2019. “I know the odds are that I am not going to get out of here in the condition I want to be, but I still feel blessed. I am a God-fearing man. I believe that He is going to do for me whatever needs to be done. I pray to Him all the time.”
Deputy Whitten said he knew his lasting injuries would not allow him to work on the streets again, but that he fully intended to gain the strength to return to work in some capacity in the future.
“I enjoyed working in the community, trying to get rid of the bad guys so it would be a safer place for everyone else to live. I really enjoyed my job. I don’t know how to say this, but I ate, drank and breathed law enforcement,” he told the Bluebonnet News. “My goal is to come back, but it could take two years. Granted, I don’t know in what capacity, but I will be back.”
On Monday, Deputy Whitten suffered a fatal heart attack at TIRR Memorial Hermann at the Texas Medical Center while participating in physical therapy, KPRC reported.
“Today we suffered the loss of a hero,” Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader said during a press conference in the wake of Deputy Whitten’s death. “Deputy Richard Whitten had a heart attack during therapy today, and he was not able to be revived.”
The beloved deputy’s death was not expected, and has come as a complete shock to the department.
Sheriff Rader said that just three days earlier, he had received word that Deputy Whitten had been chosen by the 100 club as the Officer of the Year.
The sheriff said it hurts to know that the heroic deputy wasn’t able to receive the award in person.
“He was a good man,” Sheriff Rader told reporters. “A man that everybody loved.
Deputy Whitten was also known to keep an assortment of foods in his patrol car to give to those who needed it – from cats and dogs to humans.
“He was an asset. He was an awesome person,” the sheriff said.
In addition to his wife, Deputy Whitten also leaves behind his two children.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Richard Whitten, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Deputy Richard Whitten, your life mattered.