Jorge Gomez grew up never wanting to be anything else but a police officer. Gomez achieved that life goal 25 and a half years ago when he joined the Houston Police Department.
Through those HPD years he did things you might expect – such as the name he chose for his son.
“This is my son, Clint,” Gomez is given to say. “He was named after Clint Eastwood – not Bill Clinton, just for the record!”
The officer assigned to HPD’s Airport Division at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) easily laughs at the comparison that emphasizes a special respect for Eastwood’s immortal San Francisco police inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan. It’s Eastwood, not Clinton.
Sense of Humor
Gomez grew up in New Braunfels but he and his family got to Houston as fast as they could. After he graduated from high school in 1987 his family moved here so his father could accept a job that led him to become the foreman in a machine shop operated by the company now known as National Oilwell Varco (NOV).
“I wanted to be a highway patrolman so I could work my way into becoming a Texas Ranger,” Gomez told the Badge & Gun. “They weren’t hiring at the time but the city of Houston was. I was blessed to get along with Houston, especially with the DROP. The Good Lord was really looking out for me.”
This veteran officer will look you in the eyes, smile and tell you that the Lord still looks after him as he fights a gritty battle against Stage 4 colon cancer. He uses the same approach every day. It’s called the power of positive thinking, coupled with prayer.
Ever since graduating from HPD Academy Class No. 141 on Feb. 16, 1991, Officer Gomez has used a positive approach in his cheerful work ethic.
“He’s hilarious,” IAH Sgt. Paul Carr reported. “He’s always very upbeat about everything. He makes you feel good about being a police officer.”
Gomez started on patrol at North Command and within a year or two went to Northwest Patrol before he was accepted in the Chicano Squad in the Homicide Division. He spent about a year and a half in this prestigious assignment before a beautiful woman changed his life and, in some ways, his career direction.
The hours in Homicide were long and rugged, not quite as mountainous as Dirty Harry’s but enough to convince the officer of one major condition: “My wife was better looking than the guys I was working with. I went back to Northwest.”
He uncorked one of his ever-ready laughs at the recollection. He and Alejandra (Alex) lived in Northeast Harris County. Working at IAH would be convenient.
“I went to IAH in 1999,” Gomez remembers. “I dropped anchor there and I’ve been there ever since.”
Yet his favorite “war stories” happened on other beats. Just like so many HPD officers, Gomez sighs with satisfaction along with the memories of bringing the bad guys to justice. War stories are fun to tell. In the end – most of the time – the good guys win and go away feeling like Clint Eastwood and Dirty Harry.
“When I was in Homicide,” Gomez recalled, “I knew a police officer, Albert Pedilla, who owned a jewelry store on North Main. He was fun to deal with – he gave the police discount.
“He had a little boy and a little girl who was a few months old. The little boy always said, ‘Turn your lights on’ and I’d turn on the red lights and he would smile.”
One evening three robbers came in the Pedillas’ store, two adults and a juvenile. They pulled out their guns and wound up shooting Pedilla to death and putting a bullet in the head of his wife, who also was dead at the scene as she held her baby girl in her arms. The little boy had been asleep but awakened and was able to tell officers that the bad guys fled in “a car that looked like Batman.”
Homicide and the crime scene investigators recovered fingerprints that led to the arrests of the three suspects. When Homicide investigators interviewed the two adults, they wanted to find out which adult was the shooter.
Gomez got involved:
“Listen,” he told one of the adults, “this isn’t looking good for you. There will be all females on the jury. The little boy saw you and he will have to go through all the hassle just to tell them who it was that killed his mother and daddy. He saw you shooting momma and daddy.”
The implication, Gomez remembered with a wink, was that if the suspect confessed he might get life “instead of the needle.”
“I shot them,” the suspect admitted. “The other guy had a knife and said he’d stab me if I didn’t shoot.”
Yeah, right. If you have a gun, who’s afraid of someone with a knife?
Both of the suspects got the death penalty in what Gomez described as “one of the highlights of my career.”
The story doesn’t end there, however.
The Ring Story
The jewelry store owner, Officer Pedilla, had designed a gold ring with a crucifix for his friend, Officer Gomez, who remembers Mrs. Pedilla sizing it for him. It was 14-karat gold and just fit Gomez’ finger.
Under the tragic circumstances of these two special ring bearers, this ring has a special meaning for Gomez. As it turned out, the sister of a Homicide sergeant adopted the surviving son and daughter of the Pedilla couple.
“I wanted to give that ring to that little boy,” Gomez said. “It’s got the love of his mother and daddy in it. I told the boy who wanted me to turn my lights on that he should have this ring.
“Five or six years ago at Christmas I took my family to meet him. He’s now 24 years old. I told him that if he ever hit hard times, he could sell it. I told him, ‘It belongs to you because your dad designed it and your mom sized it.’
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine.”
The ring saga will remain a very special war story in the life of Officer Gomez and his family, which in addition to Alex and Clint also includes oldest daughter Alejandra, aka “Baby Alex,” 19, and second daughter, Briana, 17.
The other ongoing war story in Jorge Gomez’ life centers around his fight against cancer.
The story of the unending physical wrangle has Gomez’ colleagues turning on their lights for him at IAH and the individual officer displaying a constantly positive approach that counteracts a Stage 4 status that entails one of those “trial” partnerships with Methodist Hospital in Willowbrook.
Let Gomez continue this particular war story.
“I came down with cancer back on Feb. 16, 2015, my 24th anniversary with the department. It was colon cancer, a tumor, and I had surgery. They told me they removed the tumor. They took my wife out into the hall and told her it was Stage 4 cancer to the liver and that I had about an 11 percent chance of surviving six months from today. My wife didn’t tell me. I’m blessed to have her as a wife and a partner in life.
“I kept living. I started doing chemo at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I was running out of vacation time. Others in the department donated time for me to be off. The Union also donated convalescence time so I still got a paycheck and benefits.”
The Union and Assist The Officer also sponsored a barbecue fundraiser and auction that raised more than $15,000. Also, to date, officers, most of them anonymous, donate to a GoFund account for the family.
Now then, to keep up the fight in this war, Jorge needed some other great teammates. And it’s no surprise that that first teammate was the Good Lord.
“I got much closer to God,” he said. “I’m still battling it. It’s gotten a little worse. It’s spread to my stomach and to the left pelvis wall.
“I want to continue with the battle. I’m asking all my brothers and sisters in blue to pray for me and my family. Prayer is like ammunition – there’s never enough. Have all their prayers sent my way. God is good and I’m going to get through this.”
Many of these dedicated brothers and sisters he’s talking about have the strong desire to do everything they can for this popular officer who works the IAH nightshift.
Enter one brother, a thoughtful sergeant Gomez works with.
The ‘Dream’ Hunt
Sgt. Paul Carr knew the story of Gomez and son Clint, 15, and last year’s deer hunting trip when Clint “got a doe.” Deer hunting on the ranches of South Texas always seems to be an expensive proposition, “a dream” Gomez had for himself and his son.
“We were thinking: What could we do for him?” Carr explained. “We were thinking: hunting trip. An officer had a friend who owns a large ranch and sells large hunts where you can get a good deer.”
That officer is Charley Beach, also at IAH. Beach has experience with these South Texas ranches and knows the people who run them. He also knows how quickly they get booked during deer season.
Ever the enterprising Houston police officer, Beach found an opportunity from a ranch owner who highly respects police officers.
“He was more than happy to help us,” Carr said. “He gave us a date and we went forward with it.”
On the weekend of Nov. 18 Jorge and Clint will head to a ranch near Uvalde and be guided in their effort to bag a buck. They also will go on a one-hour feral pig hunt from a helicopter.
That IAH bunch that works under Carr is covering all the expenses, even the mounting of the expected trophy.
Sgt. Carr summoned Officer Gomez and revealed the exciting news that the officers present already knew.
“My jaw dropped to the ground,” the officer remembered when he was told of the trip. “I went whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
“The dream I had is going to come true because of my brothers and sisters in blue,” Jorge said. “It went straight to my heart. I’m blessed. I still can’t believe it. It’s something that’s going to happen, a huge, huge blessing.
“Charley Beach used to be a guide on this ranch, the T and R Ranch. It’s an actual working ranch of 5,000 acres. Charley knows the owner of the ranch and said, ‘Let me call him.’ They were able to come to the price. That was a blessing in itself to have Charley Beach, a former employee of the ranch who knew the owners.
“Besides the hunt, we will have a one-hour helicopter ride and they will supply all the ammo for that for a specially equipped assault rifle, an AR-15. That’s going to be a trip of a lifetime, a hunt of a lifetime.
“We also will have a guide for a fully guided hunt for a 125 class buck. From antler to antler he will have eight points or higher – a trophy buck. That makes me happy. If we’re going to get that shoulder mount, he (Clint) will be able to look back for the rest of his life as a memory.”
The brotherhood/sisterhood of law enforcement also helped to reroute Gomez’ cancer treatment plan. He and his family were deeply disappointed when M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Texas Medical Center had no room left in one of its latest chemical trial programs. Gomez was not about to be satisfied with taking chemo pills and waiting for another opportunity.
But you know how HPD works in a time like this.
The word spread steadily, as it always does when there is a special need for a brother or sister.
Officer Tim Harry knew FBI Agent Cindy Brawley, who is also stationed at Bush. Brawley’s parents both suffered from cancer. She was known to work out with medical personnel, including an oncologist from Methodist Hospital.
Agent Brawley spoke with one of her friends at the gym and got a positive response: a doctor involved with two cancer studies said she would gladly accept Gomez. He was scheduled for the first treatment around Oct. 5 at Methodist Hospital – Willowbrook. The doctor is Dr. Anna Belcheva.
“What a blessing,” Gomez said. “My wife cried tears of job. God answered our prayers. What’s next? Some tests, a chemical trial or three other treatments.”
He wants to continue his evening shift desk work under the sergeant at IAH. His commuting schedule might sound grueling but – to Gomez, anyway – seems a breeze. He was born and raised in New Braunfels and moved the family there about four years ago. He’s off on the weekends and looks forward to getting a Friday off or a holiday Monday to engage in a four-day weekend. Gomez smiles when he said he always “makes it just in time for roll call at 10 p.m. Monday.”
He stays with his father when spending those week nights in Houston. Wife Alex stays positive and was especially grateful to the HPD family. She described the dream hunting trip as being like “Make a Wish.”
“The Union has gone way beyond anything,” she said. “The family is having a very hard time right now, very stressful. It feels so really, really good to have his brothers and sisters in blue.”
Alex wanted to single out many, many of Jorge’s colleagues in blue but knew it would require lots of time and space. She did want to single out another IAH sergeant, Rene Calderon, who “has gone way out of his way” to keep Jorge’s morale high, even traveling to New Braunfels at the beginning of the cancer battle. Calderon learned the positive approach early on.
“We don’t want to hear anything negative,” Alex said. “We want to fight this with the power of positive thinking, a team battling this together. I absorb the hit and he fires back. They tell the bad to me and we use the power of positive thinking and the power of prayer.
“There are things he doesn’t want to know. I’ll handle all of that. It’s our way of handling this. So far, so good. The doctors told me six months to a year. Here we are at a year and a half.
“We’re not letting anything negative get into his head.”