July 17, 2018 / 12:53 PM / 4 months ago

Suspect in three killings arrested outside Houston

(Reuters) - A suspect in the killings of at least three people in a weekend crime spree in the Houston area was arrested on Tuesday, bringing some relief after police warned residents in and around the largest city in Texas to be on “high alert.”

Officials said they arrested Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, who they described as having gang ties and having days earlier removed a monitoring device that he wore as a condition of his parole before his crime spree.

Rodriguez was arrested in the Cypress Fairbanks area in Harris County, northwest of Houston, after authorities received a phone call about someone who matched his description, Deputy Jorge Reyes said at a news conference.

Reyes and other Harris County sheriff’s deputies rushed to the area, and Rodriguez led them on a car chase before surrendering, the deputy said.

The Houston area had been on edge after three people were killed beginning Friday. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez warned on Monday that Gonzalez posed a threat to the community.

The killings highlighted the importance of closely monitoring parolees, Acevedo said at a news conference on Tuesday, vowing to step up efforts to track down parolees who cut ankle bracelets or find other ways to evade monitoring.

“Look at what these ankle bracelets mean, absolutely nothing,” Acevedo said. “They cut them off and then we have three dead people.”

Those slain were a widow and two people who were killed in mattress stores, officials said.

Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, appears in a booking photo provided by the Houston Police Department, July 17, 2018. Houston Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Rodriguez is expected to be charged with three counts of murder and faces the possibility of the death penalty, officials said.

In addition to the killings, Rodriguez is also suspected of a July 9 home-invasion robbery and the Monday shooting and robbery of a 22-year-old bus driver who is expected to survive the attack, officials said.

Acevedo did not discuss Rodriguez’ prior criminal convictions, and Houston police officials could not be reached for comment. Local news media reported that the suspect was a registered sex offender.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Scott Malone and James Dalgleish

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