As Hurricane Harvey’s relentless rain and treacherous road conditions continued to worsen, Houston Police Department Sergeant Steve Perez left his home in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, August 27.
Before leaving, Perez told his family, “We have work to do.” Despite efforts to find passable roads to work, Perez died in the line of duty when his vehicle entered high water near Beltway 8 and Sam Houston Tollway.
In unprecedented circumstances, city employees are called to do the extraordinary, and Perez did not let the historic natural disaster deter him from his duty.
Perez was a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, and two days shy of his 61st birthday. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, and joined the Houston Police Department on November 15, 1982.
During his career as a police officer, he was assigned to the Northwest and Juvenile Divisions. He promoted to the rank of Sergeant on July 1, 1992, and was assigned to the Emergency Communications, Northeast, Special Operations, Crime Analysis and Command Center, Vehicular Crimes, and Traffic Enforcement Divisions.
“The death of Sergeant Perez reminds us of the dangers that police officers willingly face every day in order to serve this great city,” HPD Chief Art Acevedo said. “We are proud of the courage of this 34-year veteran. Like Steve, we will not waiver and we will not stop until we meet the immediate safety and security needs of the community and his HPD family love to serve.”
Acevedo described Perez a sweet and gentle public servant.
“He wasn’t just taken from HPD, he wasn’t just taken from the City of Houston, he was taken from the people of Houston,” Acevedo said.
A Funeral Mass for Perez was held downtown at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Sept. 13, after which Perez was bestowed full honors for United States veterans.
During the ceremony, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Acevedo praised Perez for his steadfast dedication to duty. Scores of law enforcement officers from across the state and country lined up outside the Co-Cathedral. HPD officers escorted the funeral procession to the Houston National Cemetery for a private burial service.
“He served us through many storms, whether it was Hurricane Ike or Rita,” Turner said. “He served us on the streets for 34 years, making the city safe, and for that we will always be eternally, eternally grateful.”
“Sergeant Perez represents and epitomizes first responders, police officers, showing up every single day doing their job, and doing it exceedingly well,” Turner said. “He ran his race, he was faithful and he finished his course. It is my hope and prayer that God will continue to bless this city, God will continue to bless first responders, all of our municipal workers, but most of all, God will continue to bless his entire family.”
Acevedo spoke directly to Perez’ wife, Cheryl, acknowledging the family’s sacrifice for the greater good.
“The good Lord chose Steve to bring him home at a time when our city and state faced the greatest challenge it has ever faced. It faced a storm of Biblical and historical proportions,” Acevedo said. “What Steve did, when he wanted to go to work in 4 a.m., he chose to be a vessel for the good Lord, a vessel of faith and commitment, duty, resiliency and intestinal fortitude.”
“Today we’re here to give thanks, to say thank you to a man who led a family of servants to the Lord, a man who had faith in his family and community and mission, and he never skirted from that faith,” Acevedo said. “And what we saw through his sacrifice, was symbolic of what the entire nation saw of the city of Houston and the state of Texas for several days. We saw people come together, putting aside any difference with one singular focus - and that was Steve’s focus - to make a difference.”