HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Shannon Miles, the man charged in the cold-blooded killing of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth, pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in the deputy's murder.
Despite efforts on the part of prosecutors for a death sentencing, Miles was condemned to life in a federal prison without parole, attorneys said.
"Our client took responsibility," defense attorney Charles Brown said. "He has plead guilty. He has a just punishment. He has life without parole."
"Life without parole is a beat down that serves the interest of justice," Special Prosecutor Brett Ligon said. "You die nameless, you die faceless, and you die an anonymous death where nobody gives a good God damn about you, and you die in a pauper's grave. That is the beat down that's life without parole."
Miles was charged with murder in the Aug. 28, 2015 execution-style ambush killing of Goforth. Since the murder, Miles has been undergoing a series of mental evaluations to determine his state of mind when he allegedly ambushed and killed the law enforcement officer.
Miles was initially found to be incompetent, but a judge reversed that finding.
Attorney Anthony Osso requested Miles be properly evaluated in November, and a judge ordered his client to undergo another mental evaluation, causing a delay in the trial.
In court Wednesday, Miles pleaded not guilty.
"The most serious responsibility of a district attorney is to seek the death penalty. As a result, a team of senior prosecutors form a committee that reviews capital cases, and will review this case, to determine how we will proceed," said District Attorney, Kim Ogg.
Prosecutors said Miles killed Goforth simply because of the uniform he was wearing. The two men had never met before.
At a press conference following Miles’ 2015 arrest, former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson described what happened during the attack.
Miles was allegedly sitting in his red Ford Ranger pickup truck at a gas station on West Road when he spotted Goforth.
Goforth pumped gas into his patrol car, then went into the store. When he walked back outside, a man ran up behind him and opened fire. Goforth never had a chance to react.
The shooter unloaded 15 rounds from a .40 caliber handgun into the back and head of the deputy, then jumped into a truck and drove off.
Law enforcement sprang into action, pulling up vehicle registrations in the same zip code for the model of the truck — with a distinct trailer hitched to the back — that witnesses described to authorities. That search led them to the home of Miles, and an empty gun was also found in his possession. Authorities said ballistics testing matched the gun to the shell casings found at the murder scene.
Investigators began to dig up Miles’ past, trying to determine a motive for the killing. Though they could find no direct link to Goforth, Miles had several run-ins with the law.
Records show Miles attended Prairie View A&M University and the University of Houston, and had a lengthy arrest record with charges including resisting arrest, criminal mischief, trespassing, evading detention, and disorderly conduct with a firearm. Two of his arrests involved him using force against the arresting officers. According to his mother and his defense attorney, Osso, Miles had a lifelong history of mental illness.
In 2012, Miles was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he attacked a man at an Austin homeless shelter during a fight over a television remote. He was transported to a mental hospital, but the charge was later dropped after authorities could not find the victim.
After the Goforth attack, Miles was, again, transported to a state mental hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial.
Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He was 47 years old, a husband and a father of two. Loved ones said they would always remember his smile and his “stupid” sense of humor.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez issued the following statement on Wednesday in response to Shannon Miles’ capital murder plea agreement:
Two years ago, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office family suffered a terrible loss when our brother, Deputy Darren Goforth, was ambushed and gunned down. Deputy Goforth served the residents of Harris County for nearly a decade. He will always be remembered for his service, his bravery, and his sacrifice.
The Goforth family and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office family are pleased to learn that justice will be served upon Deputy Goforth’s killer. We are grateful to Special Prosecutor Brett Ligon and his team for their hard work to bring this terrible case to a fair resolution.
To the Goforth family, you will always be part of our family and our thoughts and prayers remain with you.
Finally, I want to thank the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Offic e family who faithfully serve our community with courage and dignity. We are grateful for our community’s support and trust, which we hold sacred. Thank you.
The Harris County Deputies Organization also released a statement on Wednesday:
"Our hearts and prayers go always to Kathleen Goforth and her family. Today, Shannon Miles pled guilty to the murder of Deputy Darren Goforth. For that heinous crime, Shannon Miles will remain behind bars for the rest of his life. Justice has been served in this case.
The Sheriff’s Office worked swiftly in its investigation of this heinous incident and quickly identified Shannon Miles as a suspect. He was arrested and has been held sense. This should be seen by everyone that if you shoot at a Deputy, you will be caught swiftly and the punishment will be enduring. The special prosecutor worked hard in this case and we support their actions. Most of all, we support Kathleen Goforth, the Goforth family, and their wishes as to the outcome of this case and we will forever support them. If they are satisfied that justice was served in this case, then justice was served.
Harris County Deputies and surrounding law enforcement must remain vigilant in our duties and forever be mindful of our safety and the safety of the community. We must stand together, stand united, and stand for the community we love and serve every day." -- David Cuevas, HCDO President