HOUSTON — Shirtless and hands in the air, a man police say is a person of interest in the death of a Bellaire police officer turned himself in for questioning. Dante Moore, 28, was escorted by community activist Quanell X, who helped facilitate his peaceful surrender, Wednesday afternoon.
Bellaire police officer Marco Antonio Zarate was killed Tuesday while chasing suspected shoplifters, and witnesses later released photos of a man who was driving the car Zarate was chasing. That man, police believe, was Moore.
It all started when Target employees at Meyerland Plaza flagged down the officer and reported two men had stolen from the store. Zarate spotted persons matching the description in the mall parking lot, and when he approached them, they sped away.
Zarate chased the car to the 8600 block of Ferris Drive near Beechnut, where he crashed into a trailer carrying landscaping equipment. The suspects in the car did not stop.
“We see this discombobulated motorcycle on this lawn and a bunch of cops and paramedics surrounding this guy lying on the ground,” Ben Feldstein, a witness, said.
Zarate was rushed to the hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. He was 52 years old.
Zarate had been with Bellaire PD since 2009, and the following year, he was nominated as the department’s Officer of the Year, an honor selected by fellow officers.
He leaves behind a wife, a 25-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twin girls.
Moore is also a twin, and his twin brother allegedly was a passenger in the car at the time of the chase.
Quanell said Moore’s family contacted him after a witness released video showing what happened in the mall parking lot. Afterward, he talked to Moore and said it was of the “utmost importance” that they turn him in safely.
“This was a very tense one for me because of the time and the climate,” the community activist said. “I’ve done many of these, but this had to be one of the most intense ones because of the situation and the charge – the possible charges – the officer being killed at a time where everybody’s on edge in this country.”
Quanell said he wanted to make it clear that no one was a threat, and that no harm would come to anyone. He said Moore asked him repeatedly if police were going to shoot him.
“My instructions to him were to take off his shirt and put his hands in the air clearly where everybody can see them because we are talking about a police officer who’s dead. We’re talking about cops being shot across the country now. Some of these police officers are really on heightened edge,” he said. “I wanted to make sure there was no suspicion and no doubt that this young man was posing no threat, and that he was not armed, and that he was in a position of complete surrender so there was no suspicious idea that he was reaching for something.”
Quanell said Moore was concerned and nervous, and understands the seriousness of the case. He added that Moore has had trouble in the past with the law.
“I believe he’s been through the system before. He seems to have some experience with the system so we are not dealing with a young man who’s square as a pool table and twice as green,” he said.
Quanell said he wanted to make sure both he and Moore would be safe in the end.
“My concern was ‘Brother let’s get you turned in safely so you can live to see another day,” he said.
Quanell credited Bellaire Police Chief Byron Holloway for personally making sure all ran smoothly.
The chief says there is no rush to judgment and no charges have been filed at this time.
“We want to hear what the man has to say. Let’s not make an assumption that he done something intentionally to cause the death of an officer. He may have been involved in a criminal activity that led to the death of an officer,” Holloway said. “These are the things that we need to sort out. That he had enough character to come in and resolve this in a peaceful manner, we appreciate that.”
He also thanked Quanell for his service.
“I would like to thank Quanell for reaching his hand out to us and trying to make the community a safer place,” Holloway said.
Holloway explained that since the accident happened in the Houston city limits, the case will be handled by investigators with the Houston Police Department. After Moore finishes talking with Bellaire PD, HPD will decide if and when to proceed with charges.