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Houston police identify 2 people killed in industrial explosion

Houston police identify 2 people killed in industrial explosion

VIDEO: Explosion rocks parts of Houston

Houston police identify 2 people killed in industrial explosion

At least two people died and one person was injured after an early-morning explosion Friday at a machine shop in northwest Houston, police said.

KHOU reported residents first felt the blast at Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Co. around 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Update 4:50 a.m. EST Jan. 25: Houston authorities have identified the two people killed in Friday’s early-morning explosion as Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena. Both men were employees at the facility and had arrived early to use the company’s on-site gym before starting their workdays, KHOU reported.

According to the TV station, a nearby resident was taken to a local hospital for treatment of unknown injuries, and at least 18 people sought emergency room treatment on their own for minor injuries associated with the blast, such as breathing issues and cuts.

Update 2:30 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Police Chief Art Acevedo said authorities believe they have identified the two people killed in Friday morning’s explosion as employees of Watson Grinding.

Authorities declined to identify the victims as they continued to await official confirmation of their identities.

“We only have two people that are accounted for and we have recovered two bodies,” Acevedo said Friday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean that there (isn’t) people that no one knows were in the area, and so we cannot say whether or not there are more victims but right now. It appears (to be) a high probability (that) there’s only two victims.”

Police, firefighters and officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the cause of the blast.

“As of right now, we don’t have any have no indication that there’s any terrorism nexus or any intentional act,” Acevedo said. Earlier Friday, he noted investigations are part of standard procedure when dealing with situations such as Friday’s explosion.

Update 1:55 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Firefighters have cleared the immediate blast area affected by Friday morning’s explosion at Watson Grinding.

The owner of Watson Grinding told KTRK the blast was a propylene gas explosion. Houston fire officials said propylene tanks still at the machine shop were intact and stable Friday afternoon.

“There is no indication of any air quality issues,” officials said.


Update 1:10 p.m. EST Jan. 24: Police expect to provide an update on the investigation into Friday morning’s explosion at a news conference scheduled to start at 1 p.m. local time Friday.


Update 10:55 a.m. EST Jan. 24: Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Friday morning that police have confirmed two fatalities connected to the explosion at Watson Grinding.

Acevedo said authorities weren’t immediately sure whether the victims were employees of Watson Grinding or residents who lived nearby. Mayor Sylvester Turner said as many as three people are believed to have died as a result of the early-morning blast.

Police and firefighters have launched an investigation of the incident.

“Let me just say off the bat, we have no reason to believe -- we have no evidence at this point that terrorism was involved, we don’t have any evidence that an intentional act is involved,” Acevedo said, adding that the investigation was part of standard procedure. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also investigating.

Fire Chief Samuel Peña said there was “significant damage” to homes and businesses in the area.


Authorities continue to investigate.

Update 10:35 a.m. EST Jan 24: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said as many as three people are believed to have died in Friday morning’s explosion.


Original report: One person was missing Friday after an early-morning explosion at a machine shop in northwest Houston caused heavy damage to nearby buildings, injuring at least one person and leaving rubble scattered in the area.

“(The explosion) knocked us all out of our bed, it was so strong,” resident Mark Brady told KPRC. “It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here … and closer toward the explosion over here, it busted people’s roofs in and walls in and we don’t know what it is … It’s a warzone over here.”


Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday morning that one person remained unaccounted for after the incident.

“It’s somebody that works there,” Acevedo said. “We’re keeping that person in our prayers.”


Firefighters said a resident who lives near Watson Grinding was injured in the explosion and taken to a hospital. Houston fire Capt. Oscar Garcia told CNN the person was injured by shattered glass.

At least one local resident captured the incident on a doorbell camera.

The owner of Watson Grinding told KTRK the blast was a propylene gas explosion. Houston fire Chief Samuel Peña said a hazardous materials team was monitoring after the incident but that there were no immediate reports of hazardous air quality.

Acevedo said the debris field extended about half a mile from the site of the explosion.


Check back for updates to this developing story.

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I am deeply sorry.” The mayor said he looked forward to meeting Fesser, a meeting which was part of the settlement, and “learning from the courage (he has had) to share (his) story and press for justice.” “I commit to doing my part to work together with all parties and community members on a journey of healing,” Axelrod said. Read Mayor Axelrod’s entire statement here. The district attorney in Multnomah County, where Portland is located, is also conducting an investigation into the credibility of those involved, the Oregonian reported. If the officers’ conduct triggers a Brady notice, prosecutors would be required in future cases to disclose to defense attorneys evidence that could be used to impeach the officers’ credibility as witnesses. According to the Washington Post, the case began in 2017 when Fesser, who has for decades run a prison ministry in his spare time, went to Benson with complaints of racial harassment at A&B Towing. 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Reeves, the suit stated, also undertook an illegal surveillance operation Feb. 25, 2017, as Fesser conducted an auction. Benson had an acquaintance record Fesser at work and, watching a live feed through company surveillance cameras, gave real-time updates to Reeves. Text messages revealed during discovery in the lawsuit showed Benson and Reeves using racist, homophobic and sexually explicit language as they texted one another. The texts, which are contained in federal court records, show that Benson said he wished Fesser’s arrest would happen in Clackamas County because he wanted to “make sure he was with some real racist boys.” “Dreams can never come true, I guess,” Benson texted. “Oh, did I say that? I’m a bad person. I have some anger issues going on with him right now.” “I can’t imagine why,” Reeves responded. At another point in the conversation, Benson sent the detective a photo of his dog. “Hope Fesser doesn’t get her in the lawsuit,” Reeves joked. “Hahaha. She’s not a fan of that type of folk,” Benson wrote. “She is a wl (West Linn) dog.” No evidence of wrongdoing by Fesser was found during the illegal surveillance. Despite that fact, Reeves and Boyd, with help from Stradley, a retired Portland police officer then working in West Linn, got the Portland Police Department’s gang enforcement team involved and that same night, they arrested Fesser as he drove home from work. “My game, my rules,” Reeves texted Benson shortly before the officers moved in, according to court records. “It’s better that we arrest him before he makes the complaint (of racial discrimination). Then, it can’t be retaliation.” Fesser told the Post he remembered seeing about a half-dozen patrol cars descend on him as he left the site of the auction that night. One West Linn officer repeatedly demanded, “Where’s the money?” and they asked him about his place of work. “When they first said that, I knew where this was coming from,” Fesser told the Post. According to Fesser’s lawsuit, one of the Portland officers, who knew him from his prison ministry, expressed discomfort with the situation. “Mike, this is not my call,” the unnamed officer told him, according to the complaint. “I don’t want to be here. We’re just assisting West Linn.” Below, read the amended federal lawsuit Michael Fesser filed against the West Linn Police Department.  Fesser’s lawsuit claimed the detectives arrested, detained him and interrogated him illegally and without probable cause. They also seized his belongings, including his cellphone, personal papers and “attorney-client privileged communications between Mr. Fesser and his employment attorney regarding his concerns of racial discrimination in the workplace,” the document said. Fesser was released on his own recognizance about eight hours after his arrest for aggravated theft. He was ordered to go to court for an arraignment the following Monday, at which time the case against him was dismissed. Meanwhile, the Oregonian reported, Benson had reached out to Timeus asking for “extra patrols” at his West Linn home, apparently fearing Fesser might show up after being released. Two days after his arrest, Fesser was called to the police station to pick up his belongings. At that point, Reeves and Boyd informed him he’d been fired by Benson. “How do police fire me from my job?” Fesser told the Oregonian of his thoughts at the time. Though the criminal case was thrown out prior to Fesser’s arraignment, the investigation was reignited seven months later -- after Fesser had filed a lawsuit against Benson in state court. “Upon information and belief, shortly after the filing of the civil litigation referenced above, the West Linn Defendants sought to prevail upon the Multnomah County district attorney to bring criminal charges against Mr. Fesser. This effort finally bore fruit in November 2017 when criminal charges were initiated,” the lawsuit stated. The district attorney dropped the charges again the following March. Timeus was placed on administrative leave in June 2017 amid accusations of “potential personnel policy violations.” He retired later that year after an internal investigation into an off-duty drunken driving investigation found “no terminable offenses,” the city announced at the time. Reeves said in his deposition in the Fesser civil case that he was disciplined for his participation in the illegal arrest. Nevertheless, he was promoted from detective to sergeant in March 2018. Kruger, who became police chief in June 2018, spoke out last week amid a wave of public outrage over Fesser’s wrongful arrest. He said much has changed about the department in the three years since he was targeted. “The former chief, captain and lieutenant involved no longer work here. Three sergeants, one detective and thirteen officers have also left service from the City of West Linn in that same timeframe; all in a department of 30 sworn personnel,” Kruger said. “In the 20 months that I have been the chief, I have promoted two new captains, two sergeants and two detectives, along with the hiring of six new police officers, a new evidence technician and community service officer.” Kruger said he has also implemented new and added training that focuses on implicit bias, diversity and procedural justice. “The officers here are on a strong path of ethical policing and fair and equitable service to all members of the public,” the chief said.

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