ON THE CHILLY NIGHT OF JAN. 30 IN HUNTSVILLE’S DEATH HOUSE Houstonians and members of the Houston Police Department saw justice done. Robert Mitchell Jennings paid the ultimate price for killing HPD Officer Elston Howard in cold blood during the aggravated robbery of a pornographic bookstore on July 19, 1988. Officer Howard, a vice officer, was in the process of arresting the bookstore manager for showing porno films without a permit.
Howard was 24 years old. Jennings was 30 at the time of his capital crime and went on to live six more years than Officer Howard was on earth. Jennings’ appeals were exhausted and he admitted to a friend that he was ready to accept his punishment.
As expected HPD turned out in full force. The witnesses to Jennings’ death included Howard’s mother, Era Howard, alongside Police Chief Art Acevedo and HPOU President Joe Gamaldi. They heard Jennings say his final words, which included, “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 took his last breath at 6:33 p.m. as the motorcycles of the Thin Blue Line – following a long-held law enforcement tradition – revved up their engines in memory of Elston Howard.
Mrs. Howard later said, “I hope that he made his peace with God. When he gets to Heaven he can apologize to my boy.” She spoke for other members of the Howard family who made the trip to Huntsville alongside a contingent of HPD officers.
This day was a long time coming. As time goes by many will dismiss the name of Jennings from their minds. But they, like HPD officers past and present, will never forget HPD Officer Elston Howard, EOW July 19, 1988.