Ranking Houston’s top 10 home sales in June – The Real Deal

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622 Saddlewood Lane was the priciest Houston home sold in June. Compass’ Courtney Robertson had the listing. (HAR, Compass)
The Memorial neighborhood dominated the top ten list of priciest homes sold in Greater Houston in June.
The west Houston neighborhood had five mansions change hands, notching the top deal at $7.9 million and more than $24 million in total volume, according to data compiled by the Houston Association of Realtors.
Memorial has by far the largest collection of large, pricey homes in the Bayou City. The neighborhood could set the record for the most expensive home ever sold in Houston if Colleen Holthouse-Romanov’s nine-acre The Lodge at Hunters Creek Village sells for its $60 million ask.
River Oaks had two sales among June’s top 10, one listed at $5.9 million and the other for $5.5 million. The neighborhood could claim a prominent spot on next month’s list if an $18 million mansion that just hit the market snags its list price.
Outside of Houston proper, there were two homes that made the list: a $6.5 million home in Cypress and a $4.5 million property in Woodlands. Harris County was home to nine out of the top ten expensive homes sold in the area. The other is in nearby Montgomery County.
Agents from Compass Realty sold six of the top 10, including the most expensive home.
The data was collected by the Houston Association of Realtors based on list prices and doesn’t include off-market deals. Here are the top five:
The 1-acre property at 622 Saddlewood Lane in Hunters Creek Village has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two half baths, a 14-car garage, 1,100-bottle wine cellar, a porte-cochere, and an elevator, in addition to a pool, and a spa, and a 48-inch grill on a veranda with two areas to entertain guests. Compass agent Courtney Robertson had the listing.
The second most expensive home on the list, which came in at $6.5 million, is a sprawling 11-acre resort-style estate facing an artificial lake in Cypress, Texas.
The property includes a two-story, four-bedroom main house, a two-bedroom guest house with a full kitchen and an additional one-bedroom guest house. The home also includes a secret passage door in the main house that leads to a fitness room and indoor sauna. The expansive grounds include a pool and lazy river. Wendy Cline of eXp Realty had the listing.
This five-bedroom house in Memorial’s Sherwood Forest subdivision has six full bathrooms and two half baths. The home, which is near Memorial Park, has a 500-bottle wine room and butler’s pantry. The upper-level’s owner suite has a spa and multiple walk-in closets. Other rooms include studies, game and media rooms. A covered patio features a fireplace, summer kitchen, pool, sports court and a generator. Compass agent Dee Dee Guggenheim was the listing agent who represented the seller.
This two-acre $6.2 million property in Memorial’s Piney Point Village features five bedrooms, six bathrooms and two half baths. The home has a kitchen with two dishwashers and two patio areas. Amy Bernstein of Bernstein Realty had the listing.
This four-bedroom, four-bathroom house sits on a half-acre near the River Oaks Country Club.
The home has two grand staircases and a swimming pool terrace with a separate stairway ascending to a guest apartment above a two-car garage. The property is already on the rental market going for $29,500 a month. Compass agent Laura Sweeney had the listing.


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Fall real estate market looming, is CT still a buyer destination? – CT Insider

A house listed for sale at $885,000 on Sport Hill Road in Easton, Conn. New listings continued to drop in August in Connecticut, but prices remain elevated amid continuing buyer demand.
Connecticut closed out the traditional home-selling season with transactions down sharply from the 2021 season spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of insufficient numbers of fresh sellers to meet the demand of buyers who continue to block shop.
Between January and August, about 31,065 homes sold in Connecticut according to a monthly update from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, about 6,000 fewer than the number sold over the first eight months of 2021. August sales were down 17 percent from a year earlier, the final month for families to move to get their kids into school systems in time the start of the academic year.
September has traditionally marked the start of an autumn lull in real estate. Last year was an exception, however, as apartment dwellers continued to beat the bushes in their eagerness to get out of the city.
The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties expects an active fall market, though not one to match last year when sales continued their momentum through November. 
“There are new buyers coming into the market,” said Candace Adams, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties. “Some of them are families — a lot of first-time buyers coming in for the first time, renters.”
At $349,000 the price of the median home sold in Connecticut was up 7.4 percent from the median home in the first eight months of 2021, as calculated by Berkshire Hathaway. The median home sold in August alone went for $375,000, with more than 40 properties fetching such offers statewide from Stamford to Groton.
On Thursday, the mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac released data showing mortgage rates hit their highest level last week since 2008, at 5.89 percent more than double their level of a year ago. That same day, the chairman of the Federal Reserve served notice the Fed will stay on course in hiking rates in an effort to bring prices down by dampening loan demand.
“It is very much my view we need to act forthrightly, strongly, as we have been doing and we need to keep at it until the job is done,” said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, during an online forum sponsored by Cato Institute. “The longer inflation remains well above target, the greater the risk the public does begin to see higher inflation as the norm.”
In a “shrinkflation” study last month of how inflation is impacting the housing market, Zillow tracked the purchasing power for home buyers spending at least $1 million, as reflected in the size of the houses they were getting. The Hartford area led the nation on that front, with buyers there getting nearly 4,900 square feet on average among homes costing roughly $1 million, give or take $50,000.
If rising interest rates and overall inflation are impacting the mortgage market, that has yet to show up in Connecticut’s summer transaction numbers or prices, compared to the spring market. Adams said that is because buyers remain motivated for varying reasons and continue to check out new listings as they hit the market.
“They need a house, they’re in the market now,” Adams said of buyers. “You can buy when interest rates are high, and refinance when they’re low. It all comes out in the wash.”
Alex.Soule@scni.com; @casoulman

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Former Atlanta Falcons LB Brandon Copeland's next venture is a real estate reality show – ESPN

Brandon Copeland sat in the corner chair as the seller came walking into the middle of the open-stage set. Almost immediately, it felt like the NFL linebacker-slash-real estate investor was the point guard, trying to get the conversation going.
On the new Netflix reality series Copeland is a part of, “Buy My House,” the 31-year-old’s personality is on full display.
The show, which debuted Friday, is sort of like ‘Shark Tank,’ — the set even looks somewhat similar with the show’s four investors, Copeland, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman and real estate mogul Danisha Wrightster in a semicircle around a carpet sitting in comfortable chairs — but instead of venture capital, the focus is real estate.
Of the four, Copeland has the most bite — and perhaps the best comedic timing of the bunch with a knack for one-liners between his serious offers for homes bought by prospective sellers.
“If the apocalypse was happening,” Copeland asked one seller in the first episode. “Do you think we could bunker down in this house?.”
In the second episode, there are jokes about the Atlanta Falcons — who Copeland was playing for at the time of filming — with a seller from Gainesville, Georgia, located a few miles from the Falcons’ practice facility.
The homes are located across the country, varying from one-of-a-kind properties, ones you’d expect to see on a typical real estate site, million-dollar properties and homes that go for a lot less.
It was an experience Copeland had never been part of before on multiple levels. It was also one that he couldn’t pass up.
“I understand the potential a show like this has not only to change my life forever but also, Shark Tank has changed a lot of people’s lives,” Copeland said. “I look at business differently because of Shark Tank. I understand valuations a little bit differently because of Shark Tank.”
He’s hoping this show helps people understand real estate and real estate investing — something he believes most people can relate to — better as well.
It was two weeks before training camp in 2021 with the Atlanta Falcons, and here he was, on set working at his other job. Copeland was in a Hollywood-style trailer — his own trailer ­– in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had trainers fly in for two-a-day workouts before and after 12-hour days of shooting.
“The first day,” Copeland said. “I had extreme imposter syndrome.”
Copeland reached out to friends while he was on set and they offered positive encouragement. So did the producers, who noticed Copeland wasn’t bidding on properties like they thought he might early on. Copeland himself, as a reminder of how he got to where he is, pulled up his own portfolio. The houses he’d flipped. The commercial real estate deals he put together and the leases he has signed for his properties with multinational corporations.
The fact Copeland was here was still a little bit unreal. He was initially skeptical of the idea when producers started reaching out to him two years ago. He’d heard offers before. He even has his own production company — one of the many businesses he keeps going.
But they kept contacting him. Tom Forman, the executive producer of ‘Buy My House’ and the CEO of Critical Content, had Copeland on his short list of people to work with for years. Forman knew Copeland’s story — University of Pennsylvania graduate, working at a hedge fund in the offseason, flipping houses in Detroit, teaching a financial literacy class at Penn all while playing almost a decade in the NFL — and thought he could be an intriguing option for one of his shows.
Copeland and his brother, Chad, analyzed the potential opportunity. Intrigued by the concept, which would have him buying properties without visiting, the difference between this and other offers he had in the past was this show had a deal already — committed to Netflix. It made this a palatable option.

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“Liked his resume. Liked the interesting way he had come to property investing,” Forman said. “Liked his spirit and reached out to him as we were casting the show and said we had our eye on you and think we have the perfect vehicle.”
Forman said no one they reached out to bought into the show right away — it was different than typical real estate investment, instead bringing hundreds of people in front of them to consider investments.
Copeland would be different from the other moguls the show would have on. Kelman, Liebman and Wrighster work in real estate full time. Copeland does not.
To prepare for the show Copeland watched more ‘Shark Tank’ than he’d done in the past. If he was scrolling through television and saw it on, he studied the episode. As shooting got closer, he stopped watching because he didn’t want to be an imitation of Mark Cuban or Daymond John. He wanted to be himself.
As well as Copeland has done financially in his career, both on the field and off it, this was a different type of game. He was competing with CEOs and financial mavens. Usually if he were in the room with these people, the loquacious Copeland would be quiet and ask as many questions as possible trying to learn. Now, he’d be on the same stage trying to beat them out for deals.
Copeland’s strategy starting the show was no different than it is in real life investing: Be disciplined. Be smart. Be decisive. It’s why, when Forman was concerned Copeland wasn’t bidding on homes, he didn’t need to be worried.
When Copeland saw a property he was intrigued by, he competed for it. Hard. As shown in multiple episodes, he was strict in not going above a certain price — sliding deep into his chair in one contentious negotiation in the third episode.
“If he’s not interested, he’s just completely not interested,” Wrightster said. “What you’ll see is when he is interested, he fully, fully jumps in there. He definitely wasn’t intimidated at all.”
The process was unusual in a multitude of ways. First, the panel was given general information about a property beforehand to do basic research — the neighborhood it might be in in a city or town, the type of property. This allowed them to have some background to ask intelligent questions, but not enough where they could figure out the specifics.
Then they are shown the homes together on a video before they meet the potential sellers. This is where things differed for Copeland from anything he’d been involved in before. Wrightster said it was clear Copeland had a strategy, focused on certain cities and cash flow, development opportunities.
Usually, Copeland doesn’t have much interaction with the sellers of a property or piece of land. He knows the information. Tries to learn about the seller — but not actually meet them. It allows him to remove emotion. He couldn’t do that here. Sellers stood feet from him trying to convince someone on the panel to buy their home. Here, he had the history behind the home and the homeowners themselves — some with incredibly emotional backstories — were wide open for the investors. The negotiations, often not public, are open and transparent.
“You have to meet everybody and you hear their stories and what they’ve gone through in some of these places and what they mean to them and you can’t hide from it,” Copeland said. “It is, I won’t say a challenge, well, partly a challenge but a different dynamic than any of us than any of us or most of us have ever invested.”
The group of four connected throughout the week-long shoot. They’ve been in a constant group text for a year. Having bigwigs in the real estate space now as part of Copeland’s circle has offered him something else
.
While Copeland thought he was busy, seeing how they managed their time gave him another perspective of how he can manage his growing businesses better with family time.
The week of shooting actually changed some of his investing strategy. While he had already moved out of single-family home flipping and into larger residential projects and commercial real estate, it taught him about loans he should and should not take.

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Before, he was comfortable with recourse lending, which would allow for the seizure of assets if there isn’t repayment on the loan. Now — “you won’t catch me in hell signing a recourse loan.” While he understands the businesses his competitors-slash-colleagues have are different from his — his decisions and experiences on the show have taught him different ways to catch potential red flags in deals.
It accelerated his already-knowledgeable business acumen as he pushes his real estate holdings into what Copeland hopes is an empire. One potential television deal or deal made on television at a time.
“I completely understood the show and what hopefully people will be a part of it,” Copeland said. “But I also thought it was one of those things that if I said no to this I could regret it for the rest of my life.”
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Houston Black Real Estate Association recognizes members, continues COVID aid – Houston Chronicle

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Award winners at the Houston Black Real Estate Association’s bi-annual gala pose for a picture.
Members of the Houston Black Real Estate Association at the bi-annual gala.
The Community of Faith, Houston Black Real Estate Association, and BBVA hosted a food drive in November of 2020 for those impacted by the pandemic. HBREA recently awarded three families $1,000 each in COVID relief funds during its bi-annual gala.
The Houston Black Real Estate Association has elected a new president, Marla Lewis, and announced the Top 20 Black real estate professionals in Houston.
Started in a time when racial discrimination in mortgage lending was legal and Black Houstonians were not allowed to become Realtors, HBREA made equal housing opportunity its founding mission. The organization says it is the oldest minority trade association in the city.
On HoustonChronicle.com: Real estate agents step up with food aid
Lewis, owner of the Entourage Real Estate brokerage, has spent nearly two decades in the industry and has helped Goldman Sachs sell properties that had failed to sell in foreclosure auctions.
“This last year has brought a unique set of challenges,” Lewis said. “We’ve decided to use our biannual gala to reflect how we’re all working together to not only overcome, but shine.”
Kim Barnes, broker of KBH Signature Realty Group, was named Realtist of the Year. A Realtist is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the parent organization of HBREA, and the award goes to a real estate agent who has shown dedication to the principles of fair, equal and affordable housing.
Jackie Cooper, the first female president of HBREA, was recognized with a newly created award named in her honor. The Jackie Cooper Award pays respect to Black women who demonstrate both excellence in the real estate industry and service in the community.
Jemila Winsey, team leader at Remax Legacy Living, took the prize for top sales after selling more than $24 million worth of homes in 2020. Kimberly Morris of Keller Williams Platinum, Ced Thomas of Legacy Homes & Properties and Nicole Handy of Braden Real Estate Group were also honored for gross sales of more than $10 million.
HBREA also awarded $5,000 in student scholarships and gave three families $1,000 each for COVID relief.
rebecca.schuetz@chron.com
twitter.com/raschuetz
R.A. Schuetz covers housing for the Houston Chronicle. Before joining the Chronicle, she wrote features for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.
Larhonda Biggles is still seeking justice for her son years after his death at the Harris County jail, which led to the firing of nearly a dozen guards. 
By Alejandro Serrano

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The 'significant market shift' for DFW housing as prices surge to new high – Dallas Business Journal – The Business Journals

New home sales in Dallas-Fort Worth dropped last month as inventory continued to increase, but new home prices kept rising to hit another new high.
The three-month moving average of new home sales for Dallas-Fort Worth fell in July to 1,180 homes from 1,285 in June. Active listings in the local Multiple Listing Service in DFW jumped to 4,595 homes vs. 2,915 in June – an increase of over 57% in the last 30 days.
The new home sales pace in North Texas quickened last month with a three-month moving average for Days on Market of 50.3 days, down from 51.4 days in June, according to the July 2022 HomesUSA.com New Home Sales Index.
“Dallas area home builders are experiencing a significant market shift,” said Ben Caballero, CEO of HomesUSA.com. “Total new home sales are down, while prices and inventory continue to increase.”
New home prices in the DFW market increased last month – a continuing trend. The three-month moving average of new home sale prices in July was a record $513,727 vs. the prior record of $501,327 in June. The average new home price is up over $99,000 since July 2021, an increase of 24 percent year-over-year.
Higher mortgage rates, inflationary pressure and the sticker shock of higher home prices have stopped or delayed some buyers from entering the new home and resale markets. Builders report that other would-be new home buyers are backing out of their contracts.
Caballero noted DFW pending new home sales also dropped slightly, impacted by buyer cancellations. In July, the three-month average of pending new home sales in North Texas was 1,569, down from 1,593 in June. 
Record home prices in Houston and San Antonio; prices also up in Austin
The average new home price also set record highs in Houston ($424,398 vs. $419,573) and San Antonio ($407,028 vs. $391,577). The average new home price also was higher in Austin ($546,978 vs. $541,079) but short of the Feb. 2022 record of $561,134.
The HomesUSA.com New Home Sales Index showed the three-month moving average of Days on Market declined statewide and in all four major new home markets in July. In DFW, the DOM decreased to 50.3 days from 51.4 days in June. Houston’s DOM was 60.1 days vs. 64.8 days in June. In Austin, the DOM decreased to 25.8 days from 26.7 days in June. In San Antonio, the DOM was 56.5 days, down from  57.1 days in June.
Based on all available local MLS data, total new home sales in Texas were lower statewide and in all four major new home markets last month, according to the three-month moving average.
The data show that new home sales statewide and in DFW, Houston, Austin and San Antonio still hover near 100 percent of the asking price.
Prices for existing homes are up 15% from a year ago
In the existing home market, the median sale price of a home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was $421,000 in July, up 15% from July 2021 but down 3% from June, according to the most recent report from the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. 
This is the largest month-to-month decrease in price for existing homes since at least 2020, even though homes still cost $100,000-plus more than they did two years ago.
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Texas leads nation in new homes for sale – The Real Deal

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(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Texas is the “poster child for fresh homes for sale,” leading the country in percentage of new homes on the market, according to a new study. When it comes to homes completed since 2012 that are on the market, six Texas cities made the top 20, Point2 reported. The publication is a division of property software company Yardi Systems.
The report studied available listings in the 50 most populous cities in the United States. It defines old homes as those built in or before 1970. “New homes” in this case mean houses that were built in or after 2012. (Presumably, the houses in between are middle-aged.) While old houses made up 50 percent or more of the listings in almost all the cities studied — El Paso being the only exception — new homes for sale were most abundant in the South and West, with a couple of Midwestern outliers.
Along with Oklahoma City, Texas cities El Paso, San Antonio and Austin are the only large cities where houses built after 2012 make up more than 40 percent of those for sale. Houston and San Antonio were just behind first-ranked New York City in the highest total number of homes for sale that were built in the past decade. New York had about 4,500 and the Texas cities had about 3,500 each.
The report attributes the proliferation of new homes in the state to a number of economic and other types of booms — including population growth, employment rate (especially in construction-related fields) and active development.
In addition to Oklahoma City, six other Southern cities join the Texas metros in having the highest share of new homes on the market: Nashville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Tampa, Florida.
Detroit, Michigan, and Baltimore, Maryland, topped the list of cities with the highest percentage of old homes on the market. ​​In the country as a whole, the US Census reports that almost 40 percent of listed homes were built before 1970.
[Point2] — Cindy Widner


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Texas Self Storage Facility Trades – Multi-Housing News

Trojan Self Storage, an 87,480-square-foot facility located in Troy, Texas, has changed hands. Yardi Matrix data shows the owner was a private individual. The asset was sold to a Texas-based private investor.
According to Bell County records, the new owner received an acquisition loan of $4.9 million originated by Alliance Bank and a seller carry-back loan of $2.6 million from Hicks Family Properties.
Senior Vice President Brandon Karr of Marcus & Millichap represented the seller and secured the buyer in this transaction.
Trojan Self Storage was built in four phases, between 2018 and 2021. The facility encompasses 21 buildings across 5.2 acres and offers a mix of non-climate and climate-controlled units, ranging from 50 to 384 square feet. On-site amenities include 24-hour access, video surveillance, drive-up access and RV and boat parking.
Situated at 610 Church Ave., next to Interstate 35, the property is situated roughly 8 miles from Temple, with easy access to major Texas cities including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.
Marcus & Millichap has recently arranged several self storage deals in the Houston market. Public Storage acquired a 189,088-square-foot facility, while Andover Properties expanded its footprint in the area with the acquisition of a portfolio of four storage properties, totaling 429,169 square feet.
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A Trusted Real Estate Advisor Provides Expert Advice – Keeping Current Matters

If you’re a homeowner or are planning to become one soon, you’re probably looking for clear information about today’s housing market. And if you’ve turned to the news or even just read headlines recently, you might feel like you’re left with more questions than answers. The best way to make sure you get what you need is to work with an expert.
With any big milestone in life, it’s wise to seek advice from people who are experts in their field.  While you likely want that advice to be perfect, perfect simply isn’t possible. But professionals have the knowledge and experience to be able to provide you with the best advice for your situation.
For example, let’s say you need an attorney, so you seek out an expert in the type of law required for your case. They won’t immediately tell you how the case is going to end or how the judge or jury will rule. But what a good attorney can do is discuss the most effective strategies based on their experience and help you put a plan together. They’ll even use their knowledge to work with you to adjust as new information becomes available.
Similarly, the job of a trusted real estate professional is to give you the best advice they can. Just like you can’t find a lawyer to give you perfect advice, you won’t find a real estate professional who can either. That’s because it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen throughout your transaction. But an expert real estate advisor knows market trends and the ins and outs of the homebuying and selling processes.
They’ll use that knowledge to explain both the national headlines and what’s happening in your local area. That way, you have the best of both worlds and can feel confident in your decision to buy or sell. Freddie Mac explains why having an expert on your side is so essential:
“The success of your homebuying journey largely depends on the company you
keep. . . . Be sure to select experienced, trusted professionals who will help you make informed decisions and avoid any pitfalls.”

With their expertise, a real estate advisor can anticipate what could happen next and work with you to put together a solid plan. Then, they’ll guide you through the process, helping you make decisions along the way. That’s the very definition of getting the best – not perfect – advice. And that’s the power of working with a real estate advisor.
To get expert advice when you buy or sell a home this year, contact a local real estate professional.

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Houston crime: Suspect wanted in South Carolina shot and killed by US Marshals task force outside apartment complex on El Paseo – KTRK-TV

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A fugitive out of South Carolina is dead after U.S. Marshals tracked him to an apartment complex in Houston, where neighbors who knew him say he normally visited his grandmother there.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A suspect is dead after being shot by U.S. Marshals Southern District of Texas task force members outside an apartment complex in southwest Houston, according to police.
The shooting happened in the 1800 block of El Paseo Street, east of the Astrodome and near the Texas Medical Center, shortly after 8 a.m. Friday.
According to U.S. Marshal T. Michael O'Connor, members of the task force located a man wanted on multiple violent charges out of South Carolina, including weapons charges, sitting in a car outside the apartment complex.
Officers attempted to block the suspect in to prevent him from leaving. That's when the man attempted to flee and rammed one of their vehicles, Houston Police Asst. Chief Kevin J. Deese said.
As task force members got out of their vehicles and approached the suspect, he pulled out a firearm, Deese said.
That's when multiple officers discharged their firearms, shooting and killing the suspect. Investigators did not disclose how many shots were fired.
"Apparently, he began to try and engage with the marshals as they approached," O'Connor said. "Obviously, they had to fire upon this subject."
SkyEye video showed a red car with multiple bullet holes in the windshield and driver's side window. A gun was also seen on the hood of the car.
The Houston Police Department is the lead investigative agency on the case.
Officials did not immediately identify the man killed. No task force members were injured.
As for whether body-worn camera captured the confrontation, officials explained none of the federal agencies involved didn't require a camera.
Investigators believe he made his way out of South Carolina because an acquaintance lives in Houston. He reportedly had a lengthy criminal history in South Carolina.
Those who knew him say he went by the name "Rock" and would come to the complex to drop off food for his grandmother and run errands for her and his children. All they saw was a kind man who helped others, including them when they were in need.
"We knew about the history, but we never seen that. We never seen that side of him," Mari Sanchez, the suspect's friend, said.
For more news updates, follow Courtney Carpenter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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EXCLUSIVE Dozens of migrant children reported missing in Houston, raising alarms – Reuters

Unaccompanied migrant children from Central and South America stand in line as they await to be processed by border patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, U.S., April 9, 2022. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo
Sept 2 (Reuters) – Federal and local officials are scrambling to locate close to a dozen unaccompanied migrant children, after Houston police raised concerns about dozens of migrant children reported missing in the Texas city since last year, according to U.S. government officials and related emails reviewed by Reuters.
The cases underscore the challenges for U.S. President Joe Biden's administration as it faces a record number of unaccompanied kids arriving at the southwest border it must safely and quickly release to sponsors in the United States.
Earlier this summer, a Houston police detective alerted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after discovering what looked like a pattern of migrant kids missing from the homes of their U.S. sponsors, according to an HHS official, who declined to be identified.
HHS is the federal agency that oversees the custody and release of children after they have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian.
In August, in a rare step, the HHS refugee office implemented an emergency supervisory review of releases of unaccompanied kids to non-parent sponsors in the Houston area, according to the HHS official and an internal email seen by Reuters.
The agency found that since late last year, 57 unaccompanied migrant kids had been reported missing in Houston, the HHS official, and two additional sources familiar with the situation, said. Included in the count were nine kids who ran away from HHS shelters in the Houston area, the official said.
As of Aug. 26, 46 of them had been confirmed safe, the official said. So far authorities say they have found no evidence of sex or labor trafficking.
Some of the missing kids who have been located are now 18 or older. A handful left the homes of relatives acting as sponsors to join parents who were in the United States, the official said, adding that the number of cases being reviewed is small compared to the volume of overall releases to the area.
Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, is the No.1 destination for releases of unaccompanied minors, with more than 6,300 released between October 2021, when this fiscal year began, through June 2022.
(For a map of unaccompanied minors released by county see: https://tmsnrt.rs/3Rclzfh)
More than 200,000 non-Mexican minors – who cannot be quickly turned around at the border – have been caught crossing alone since Biden took office in January 2021.
Early in Biden's presidency, the rise in unaccompanied minors overwhelmed Border Patrol stations, leaving children stuck in crowded conditions beyond a legal limit of 72 hours.
Biden officials took steps to expand emergency shelters and streamline the release of children to sponsors – usually parents or relatives – in the United States, while at the same time seeking to ensure they are not sent to homes where they could face danger or mistreatment.
In some cases – about 15% of all releases in the 2022 fiscal year so far – kids are released to more distant relatives or unrelated adults who have been vetted, according to HHS data.
(For a chart on historical releases of unaccompanied minors see: https://tmsnrt.rs/3RmX0Ms)
An official with the HHS inspector general's office had never seen this scale of unaccompanied children reported missing in one area, but said it was not clear if the trend was new or just recently uncovered by the Houston Police Department.
The city's police department said it was "currently conducting investigations into reports of missing, unaccompanied juveniles" but declined to answer additional questions.
Mario Bruzzone, a senior policy adviser at the Women's Refugee Commission, which advocates for unaccompanied children, said in some cases, sponsor relationships can break down after a honeymoon period following reunification.
Kids may have conflicts and run away due to trauma experienced in home countries or en route to the United States, he said. Runaways tend to be "an unfortunate part of this world of child welfare work," he said.
"There's a real tension here in terms of how we do releases," Bruzzone said. "For child welfare reasons, we want to make sure that they can get to homes as fast as possible, while we're also doing the screening necessary to ensure that the homes they are going to are safe and stable."
During the review of Houston area cases, HHS discovered dozens of children had been released to similar addresses, which can be a red flag for possible trafficking, according to the HHS official and another source. The HHS official said the agency determined the addresses were in apartment complexes where many immigrant families live and not a significant cause for concern.
The official said that around 60 cases for release had been subject to additional review and of those 53 had been cleared for release as of Aug. 26.
Last year, releases from HHS custody were halted in and around the southern Alabama town of Enterprise. An HHS probe at the time focused on whether minors were falling victim to traffickers exploiting them for labor, three sources familiar with the investigations said.
While investigators discovered no evidence of child trafficking, they found "exploitative" working conditions for some migrants living in the area and Reuters uncovered cases of children working in industrial settings in the state. read more
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British politics returns to centre stage on Tuesday after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, with Prime Minister Liz Truss signalling her priorities by flying to her first major summit and rushing out measures to try to avert an economic slump.
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