Montgomery Mourns Officer's Death; Suspect in Jail

Officer Houts
Officer Houts

A Montgomery police officer shot last week during a routine traffic stop has died.   Montgomery Police tell WSFA 12 News Officer Keith Houts died Saturday night shortly before 10:00 p.m.

Houts was shot several times Thursday and suffered a severed spine.  Doctors say he had also developed pneumonia and Mayor Bobby Bright said Saturday Houts suffered a stroke.

Houts' family and fellow officers staged an ongoing vigil at Jackson Hospital since the shooting occured.  Mayor Bright and Police Chief Art Baylor were among those holding out hope.

"He was a good man.  He was a really good man," says Bright.

"He will be remembered at the police department," Baylor adds.

Houts body couldn't support his heart's will to survive.  Mayor Bright says the officer's three day struggle ended naturally.

"He just lost the fight.  No one had to make that decision and I'm proud that no one had to make that decision," says Bright.

"We still have a long way to go. We have to deal with the funeral of the officer and we still have to deal with the prosecution of Woodward," says Baylor.

Many wonder why a slaying so senseless and will the city ever be the same.

"I was there when they pronounced him," Baylor adds.  "He was a strong guy and he fought hard to stay here. As one of the police officers said to me, 'Even God needs police officers.'"

Houts' sister, Lori Holsomback, spoke to WSFA 12 News shortly before her brother passed away. "We're just holding on to the fact that the Lord is in control and justice will be served," she said.   When asked what Holsomback would say to the man who shot her brother, she said she had "No words for him."

"Part of me wants to be angry and hate him, but that's not what Christ would have wanted," Holsomback said. "According to the holy scriptures, God says vengeance is mine.  We know that all of this is in God's hand and He will seek justice."

A fund has been set up on behalf of the Houts family.  Donations to the Officer Keith Houts Fund can be made at Montgomery Wachovia Bank locations.

Suspect Arrives in Montgomery

The 32-year-old suspect in the case sits in the Montgomery County Jail without bond.  Mario Woodward was returned to Montgomery Saturday.  He was captured the day before in Henry County, Georgia.  Woodward waived extradition and arrived in Montgomery around 4:00 p.m.

Many officers were present upon his arrival. Following Officer Houts' death, charges of attempted murder against Woodward were upgraded to capital murder.  He is being held in a maximum security cell.