Harris County Deputy Fernando Esqueda shot, killed; suspect charged with capital murder

The search is now over for a suspect after a Harris County deputy was shot and killed in the line of duty on Wednesday night.

44-year-old Ronald "Ronnie" Palmer was located at a home in the 12300 block of Ghita Lane on Thursday evening. 

According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Palmer has been charged with capital murder and two counts of aggravated assault in connection with the death of Deputy Fernando Esqueda. The bond for the aggravated assault charges is $50,000 each, but a bond has not been set for the capital murder charge.

Esqueda, a five-year veteran of the sheriff's office, served on the Violent Person Task Force.

"We pray with Deputy Esqueda's family, friends, and colleagues during this incredibly difficult time. Deputy Esqueda’s commitment to duty and his sacrifice will always be remembered," the sheriff wrote.

A Blue Alert was issued on Thursday evening for Palmer. The sheriff said Palmer was also wanted in connection to an aggravated assault at a Little Caesars Pizza at 15634 Wallisville Road on Wednesday night.

The incident began around 10:10 p.m. Wednesday when deputies and investigators responded to a report of an assault in progress at the Little Caesars Pizza on Wallisville Road.

Harris County Deputy Fernando Esqueda (Photo: HCSO)

Authorities say a man had gone into the restaurant to pick up a pizza he had ordered, but was upset because the order was incorrect. The sheriff’s office says the man began verbally assaulting an employee, pistol-whipped the worker, and fled in a vehicle.

The employee was able to give the deputies a description of the vehicle and the license plate, and the deputies put out a general broadcast with the information.

Officials say the call went out to numerous detectives and undercover deputies who have been working 12-hour shifts and conducting proactive patrols at night in the wake of Hurricane Beryl.

Ronnie Palmer (Photo: Harris County Sheriff's Office)

One deputy put the vehicle information into a flock camera system and saw it had a history of hits in a specific area. Several detectives went to the area near the 13200 block of Italian Cypress Trail to look for the vehicle.

According to the sheriff’s office, the detectives didn’t spot the vehicle, so some detectives broke away. However, one detective went back to the location where they thought the vehicle might be and notified the team he thought he had found it, officials say.

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The sheriff’s office says there was some confusion about the transmissions – it’s possible he was having radio problems – but there was a phone conversation with another detective to tell them he saw the vehicle but not the suspect.

During that phone call, authorities say the deputy was apparently ambushed. Other detectives went to the location and found his undercover vehicle with several bullet holes.

They discovered the deputy had been shot multiple times, pulled him out of the vehicle, and decided to drive the deputy to a nearby hospital, officials say. He did not survive his injuries.

Officials are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the Harris County Sheriff's Office at (713) 274-9100.