The wife of a Houston police officer who died in Hurricane Harvey has opened up about her husband's last words.
Sgt. Steve Perez's wife, Cheryl, recalled how she urged her husband not to report for work as the damage and flooding from the storm had worsened, Daily Mail reports. She remembered how he told her, "I've got work to do," as he left for the police station in the early hours of Aug. 27.
The officer drove for two hours trying to find a route to safely get to the station. But because of the severe, widespread flooding, Perez couldn't make it to the station. Following protocol, he tried to get to another station to report for duty. When he did not report for duty, police called his wife, who told them he had left hours earlier. Perez had died while trying to report for duty.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner confirmed the 60-year-old sergeant's death, tweeting that Perez had been "caught in floodwaters while driving to duty."
After the launch of a search operation to find Perez, a dive team found his body on Aug. 29.
"Sgt. Perez fulfilled his purpose," wrote Turner on Twitter. "His mission is complete. This city ought to celebrate his life. 9K police and fire working to serve."
"Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying," said Turner. "Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to get at his post... that's the ultimate sacrifice."
The Houston Police Department released a statement announcing Perez's death.
"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the tragic in the line of duty death of Sgt. Steve Perez," said the department. "Sgt. Perez was bravely serving the City of Houston in the face of this unprecedented weather-related disaster when his vehicle entered high water."
"The death of Sgt. Perez reminds of us the dangers that police officers willingly face every day in order to serve this great City. We will go through this extremely difficult and trying time with heavy hearts sadly reminded of the ultimate sacrifice one of our own paid," the statement continued. "Words cannot adequately express the sense of loss the Perez family and their extended Houston Police family are experiencing."
The department offered its "hearts and prayers" to Perez's wife, son and daughter.
"We are proud of the courage of this 34-year veteran," the department said. "Like Steve, we will not waiver and will not stop until we meet the immediate safety and security needs of the community Steve and his HPD family love to serve."
Police Chief Art Acevedo teared up as he spoke about Perez's death, according to the Houston Chronicle, calling him a "sweet, gentle public servant" and "one of the sweetest people I've ever met."
Crews in Houston have responded to more than 2,500 distress calls, and officials have reported that there have been at least 30 confirmed and suspected deaths, The New York Times reports.
Hurricane Harvey may end up as the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, according to Accuweather.