Stafford police Officer Ann Carrizales looked at the rows of television cameras in front of her and the rows of uniformed officers behind her, then pinched the cheeks of her boss, the chief of police, and told him everything was going to be OK.
It was not something you would expect from a former Marine who had been shot in the face and the chest less than a week before and pursued her attackers in a high-speed chase.
It was an act of whimsy by someone with a newfound respect for life.
"I'm enjoying seeing things from a different perspective," Carrizales said. "The clouds are gray and the rain is dropping, and I don't think it's ever looked more beautiful to me."
The 40-year-old, with stitches in her ear and bandages covering her left cheek and neck, was all smiles after a news conference Thursday during which she asked for tips from anyone with information on two suspected gang members who may have been involved in the shooting.
"I was born to be a protector," Carrizales said, asking for the public's help. "I would gladly lay down my life to protect any of you. If you can do anything to help in this case, you would be protecting the protectors."
Carrizales, a former U.S. Marine Corps military police officer, joined the Stafford Police Department in August 2010.
She was shot about 3:30 a.m. Saturday after pulling over three men in a four-door Nissan at a mobile home park. She had seen the sedan idling at a green light with a blinking turn signal in the 12700 block of Murphy.
After one of the men opened fire and the car sped away, Carrizales returned shots. After getting back to her police cruiser, she chased the car several miles until it stopped and the occupants ran.
The suspected shooter, 21-year-old Sergio Francisco Rodriguez, was found after the car chase. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer.
Her close call seemed to have a more sobering effect on the two men she was standing between: her husband and Stafford's chief of police, B.R. Krahn.
"When they called and said I had an officer who had been shot, it was my first time," Krahn said as he choked back emotion. "I don't want any other police chief to get that call, that shakes you to your very core."
Carrizales' husband was more blunt.
"If you can do anything to assist these guys and catch these cowards, please help us," said Chris Mathis. "If they can shoot a cop with no regard for life, they're not worth your protection."
Law enforcement officials are trying to find the suspected driver, Freddy Henriquez, 28.
Police said both Rodriguez and Henriquez are Hondurans who have been in the country for an extended period without proper documentation.
Police are also looking for the third man in the car, Daniel Cruz, who is also known as Jose Luis Cruz.
The three are believed to be gang members, and may have connections to MS-13, a notorious El Salvadoran crime syndicate.
They are also apparently connected to a major local gang, the Houstones. Police said they believe Cruz has the word "Houstone" tattooed on his neck, a tattoo of a city skyline on his left arm, a tattoo of a star on his right forearm and a tattoo of a cross under his left eye.
Copyright 2013 - Houston Chronicle
McClatchy-Tribune News Service