Fort Worth police officer describes night Garrett Hull was killed, how unit honors him

·4 min read

In September 2018, Fort Worth police Officer Ryan Navarro held his friend’s head in his lap as they rushed to a hospital in the back of a police patrol car.

Fort Worth Officer Garrett Hull was shot in the head as he, Navarro and other members of the criminal intelligence unit chased down three men suspected of robbing a bar at gunpoint. The team — a small unit that Navarro described as the “big leagues” of police work — had been tracking the group of robbers for weeks.

On Sept. 13, the team tailed the men — Dacion Steptoe, Samuel Mayfield and Timothy Huff — as they drove around a South Side neighborhood. That night, they walked into Los Vaqueros bar and forced patrons to the floor at gunpoint, according to the Fort Worth Police Department.

When the men fled the bar on Biddison Street, Hull and other officers positioned around the neighborhood gave chase. In a driveway nearby, Steptoe fatally shot Hull in a shoot-out. Another officer killed Steptoe.

On Monday, Huff was found guilty of capital murder in Hull’s death after the jury deliberated for less than an hour. Mayfield is also charged with capital murder — his trial date has not been set.

After Judge George Gallagher read the jury’s verdict on Monday, the punishment phase of the trial began. Navarro took the stand to give his testimony of that night and how, for the tight-knit criminal intelligence unit, losing Hull was like losing “the glue that sticks you together.”

‘The best cop you could think of’

The night of the shooting, Navarro was the first one to begin treating Hull after he was shot. Navarro, who is a former paramedic, rushed toward the sound of gunfire after hearing the dreaded call on his radio of an officer down. As soon as he saw a man in plain clothes lying in the grass, he knew whoever had been shot was on the criminal intelligence unit — all the other officers at the scene wore their uniforms.

He checked Hull for injuries, he said during his court testimony, and knew the outcome was bleak. Hull had been shot in the head, and there was no exit wound. Body-camera footage shown during court two weeks ago captured the chaotic aftermath of the shooting. Officers yelled for a car to be brought around, and multiple people helped carry Hull to an unmarked patrol car.

Navarro held Hull’s arms from underneath and backed into the back seat of the car, pulling Hull on top of him, he testified Monday. Navarro cradled Hull’s head in his lap and kept his airway open as they sped to the hospital.

Garrett Hull, a Fort Worth officer killed in the line of duty, was honored during a 2020 vigil that marked exactly two years since he died.
Garrett Hull, a Fort Worth officer killed in the line of duty, was honored during a 2020 vigil that marked exactly two years since he died.

Once at the hospital, Navarro watched as ER staff assessed Hull. He eventually changed out his clothes, which had his friend’s blood on them. In court Monday, prosecuting attorney Timothy Rodgers showed a picture to the jury of Navarro’s clothes that night — a pair of khaki-colored pants with splotches of brownish red. Hull was pronounced dead on Sept. 14.

Hull — who was married and had two children — was “the best cop you could think of,” Navarro said Monday. Navarro, who worked on the criminal intelligence unit with Hull for five years, said Hull was like a big brother who everyone felt safe around. Hull’s death made Navarro think about his own family and what would happen to them if he died.

“It makes you think, ‘Is it worth it?’” Navarro said in his testimony. “Then you think of Garrett and that’s what keeps us going. He’s always with us.”

The criminal intelligence unit was renamed after Hull’s death, Navarro said. On paper, the team is called the Operation and Surveillance Team. But among the officers, it has a more meaningful name: GHOST — the Garrett Hull Operation and Surveillance Team.

Hull, a 17-year veteran with the Fort Worth Police Department, has been honored in other ways, as well. In May 2019, Hull’s name was added to the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. At Hull’s funeral in 2018, former Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald promoted Hull posthumously to corporal and retired his badge number 3105.

The punishment phase of the trial is set to continue Tuesday in Tarrant County’s 396th District Court. The maximum possible sentence in a capital murder conviction is the death penalty.

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