An Accidental Career

John Mook
Senior Deputy, Harris County Sheriff’s Office

I spent nine years in the US Army Infantry, during the 80s, rising to the rank of staff sergeant and completing two tours in Germany. During the last tour, I watched the Iron Curtain get dismantled and my unit conducted training at Doughboy City, Berlin, the month before the Berlin Wall fell. I figured it was time to find a new career.

I ended up in Houston, Harris County, Texas and hired on with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department (now Office). After working the jail for a couple of years, I was finally able to attend the sheriff’s academy and earn my peace officer certification. After completing field training, which back then was a whole three weeks, done all on night shift and resulted in an arrest every night, I was called into Captain Mike Smith’s office and told I would be working the Chimney Hill subdivision, which was Latin King territory, and I was to take care of the problem, he didn’t care how I did it. Knowing nothing about gangs and not having any training available back then, it took me about six months to get oriented to who was who. This was before laptop computers, cell phones, in-car and body cameras, etc. I kept one binder for the Latin Kings and one binder for the Crips, Bloods, Juntos Queridos Asesinos, MS-13, etc. Eventually a BATFE agent showed up looking for information on the Latin Kings as part of Operation Corona, a 30-month investigation into their establishing a cocaine pipeline from Mexico to Chicago, that resulted in scores of state and federal charges, including murder-for-hire, against 23 Texas Latin Kings leaders ( I handed him the Latin King binder and let him copy it. The resulting convictions snared three of my local gang members and effectively shut down the 25th Chapter, which, to this day, has not reconstituted. In 2010, Chimney Hill named their neighborhood park after me during National Night Out, in appreciation of my work.

As a result of my gang work, I was recruited as a gang investigator when our department established a gang unit in 2009 and then sent to the FBI’s Multi-Agency Gang Task Force until Sheriff Adrian Garcia requested that I go to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2012.

The sheriff then thought I should apply for the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team Fellowship under Homeland Security at the National Counterterrorism Center, to which I was accepted and served from April 2014 to April of 2015, making me only the second person from the Houston area to have served there.

I have resumed my duties at the Joint Terrorism Task Force, investigating international terrorism-related activity and Homegrown Violent Extremists.

While I have had a long and interesting career and accomplished much over 26 and a half years, my proudest moment was when my son, Christopher, finished his degree at Sam Houston State University after doing his time in the infantry and joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

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