Texas executes man for killing police officer in botched 1988 robbery

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(Reuters) – The state of Texas on Wednesday executed a man convicted of shooting a Houston police officer to death during a botched robbery of an adult book store in 1988, the state’s Criminal Justice Department said.

Robert Mitchell Jennings, 61, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 6:33 p.m. CST at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, the agency said in a statement. He became the first person put to death this year by Texas, which executed 13 inmates in 2018, more than any other state.

“To my friends and family it was a nice journey,” Jennings said in a final statement, according to the criminal justice agency. “To the family of the police officer, I hope this finds you peace, and be well and stay safe. Enjoy life’s moments because we never get them back.”

Jennings was condemned to die for the July 1988 slaying of 24-year-old Elston Howard, a vice officer in the city of Houston, during a failed robbery of an adult bookstore, according to state prison records.

At the time of the incident, Jennings was on parole after serving 10 years of a 30-year sentence for another robbery.

Howard was in the bookstore serving an arrest warrant on a clerk for showing movies without a license, the Houston Chronicle and prison records said.

Jennings shot Howard twice, and then shot him a third time after the officer collapsed on the floor, according to prison records.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney

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