The death toll attributed to Hurricane Harvey now stands at at least 18, and a Houston cop numbers among the dead. Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the department, drowned Sunday while attempting to drive to work in his patrol car, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo confirmed Tuesday. Perez's wife warned him not to try to get to work Sunday morning, but he left his home at 4am and tried for more than two hours to get to his duty station, the Chronicle reports. An official earlier told the paper Perez "took a wrong turn" while trying various routes that might get him downtown (or to the nearest station, as per department protocol), and ultimately became trapped under an overpass.
Acevedo said Perez's body was found Monday, but was not able to be recovered from the underpass until Tuesday. He was in 16 feet of water, the AP reports. The officer, who was just days away from his 61st birthday, was "a sweet, gentle public servant," Acevedo says. "Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post" so he could help other hurricane victims. "That's the ultimate sacrifice." When both his wife and his father-in-law warned him not to leave home during the heavy rains, "His response was, 'I've got work to do,'" Acevedo says. "What we can say is Sgt. Perez fulfilled his mission and the Lord called him home." He also leaves behind a son and daughter, People reports.