'We've got work to do': Houston policeman's last words to family

HOUSTON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Houston police officer Steve Perez told his wife and family he had no choice but to drive through the torrential rains from Tropical Storm Harvey to get to his job, despite their worries about his safety.

"We've got work to do," he told them before leaving.

He never made it.

Perez, a 60-year-old sergeant with more than three decades on the Houston police force, died in the flood waters after leaving his home on Sunday morning - making him one of at least 12 people killed since Harvey crashed into the Texas coast on Friday as a major hurricane.

City officials were preparing to shelter some 19,000 people as the slow-moving storm lingers over the state, with thousands more expected to flee the area as the flooding entered its fourth day.

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An aerial photo shows damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S., August 31, 2017. Photo taken August 31, 2017. REUTERS/DroneBase TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Houses are seen submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
David Michaelis holds his 3-year-old grandson Teddy as he wades through flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
A man carries a dog from a rescue boat as it evacuates people from the rising waters of Buffalo Bayou following Hurricane Harvey in a neighborhood west of Houston, Texas, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Residents evacuate neighborhood left flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in West Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
People carry their possessions from the rising waters of Buffalo Bayou following Hurricane Harvey in a neighborhood west of Houston, Texas, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
People wait to get into one of the few open grocery stores after Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
David Gonzalez comforts his wife Kathy after being rescued from their home flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Residents talk as flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise in Orange, Texas, U.S., August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
A car gets towed while men walk in the flooded waters of Telephone Rd. in Houston Houston, Texas on August 30, 2017. Monster storm Harvey made landfall again Wednesday in Louisiana, evoking painful memories of Hurricane Katrina's deadly strike 12 years ago, as time was running out in Texas to find survivors in the raging floodwaters. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas B. Shea (Photo credit should read THOMAS B. SHEA/AFP/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30: Friends reunite in the middle of a flooded intersection as water continues to rise in their neighborhood following Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi August 25, has dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in and around Houston. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Residents wait to be rescued from the flood waters of Tropical Storm Harvey in Beaumont Place, Houston, Texas, U.S., on August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Residents wade through flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Beaumont Place, Houston, Texas, U.S., on August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman carries her dog into a collector's vintage military truck to evacuate from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A rescue helicopter hovers in the background as an elderly woman and her poodle use an air mattress to float above flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey while waiting to be rescued from Scarsdale Boulevard in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Craig "Cajun" Uggen, 57, nearly floods his truck as Hurricane Harvey comes ashore in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. Minutes later, high winds blew off the camper carrying all of his belongings. REUTERS/Brian Thevenot TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Traffic lights lie on a street after being knocked down, as Hurricane Harvey approaches in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Local residents watch the storm in the dark after a citywide power failure as Hurricane Harvey hit Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Harvey on Friday further intensified into a dangerous category four storm, just hours before it was due to slam into the Texas coast, US meteorologists said. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Waves pound the shore from approaching Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Maria Jaramillo (C) and other guests of the TownPlace Suites hotel wait out Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a major hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TEXAS, Aug. 25, 2017 -- An employee holds a sign showing water has sold out in a chained market in Houston, the United States, Aug. 24, 2017. The populations in the southern part of Texas are preparing for significant impacts from Hurricane Harvey as it is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 Hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. (Xinhua/Liu Liwei via Getty Images)
Bottles of water and other drinks sit in a nearly emptied shelf at a Kroger Co. grocery store in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. Hurricane Harvey, set to make landfall on the center of the Texas coast late Friday, is expected to hit a refinery-rich stretch of the Gulf Coast and U.S. drivers could soon see the impact at the gas pump. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: A sign blows in the wind after being partially torn from its frame by winds from Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a major hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A man takes a selfie photograph on seawall by the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Harvey in Galveston, Texas, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey�strengthened as it headed toward landfall in Texas, forecast to become the worst storm to strike the region in more than a decade. The price of gasoline�rallied�as it threatened to wreak havoc on the heart of America's energy sector. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Fabian Fernando his daughter, Azalee Fernandez, Rosalind Gonzalez and Roland Gonzalez (L-R) wait out Hurricane Harvey at the TownePlace Suites hotel which they felt was safer than their homes on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a major hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: A road sign warns travelers of the the approaching Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Lilyann Lewis packs pinky into the vehicle as her family packs up and evacuates their home before the approaching Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A hurricane warning sign is seen under storm clouds, above a highway approaching Victoria, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Cody Munds, Lee Martin and John Pezzi (L-R) fill sandbags as people prepare for approaching Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Bottles of water and other drinks sit in a nearly emptied shelf at a Kroger Co. grocery store in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. Hurricane Harvey, set to make landfall on the center of the Texas coast late Friday, is expected to hit a refinery-rich stretch of the Gulf Coast and U.S. drivers could soon see the impact at the gas pump. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hurricane Harvey is seen in the Texas Gulf Coast, U.S., in this NOAA GOES satellite image on August 24, 2017. NOAA/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Tropical Storm Harvey is seen approaching the Texas Gulf Coast, U.S., in this NOAA GOES East satellite image taken at 10:07 ET (14:07 GMT) August 24, 2017. NOAA/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A vehicle passes a hurricane warning sign under storm clouds as it heads south approaching Victoria, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Tropical Storm Harvey is seen approaching the Texas Gulf Coast, U.S., in this NOAA GOES East satellite image taken at 10:07 ET (14:07 GMT) August 24, 2017. NOAA/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Raul Barral and Carlos Guerra (L-R) walk through high wind and driving rain together before the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The US flag lies tangled in power lines as strong winds from Hurricane Harvey hits Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Harvey on Friday further intensified into a dangerous category four storm, just hours before it was due to slam into the Texas coast, US meteorologists said. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: Amy Currin watches the weather news on her cell phone after the power went out at the TownePlace Suites hotel where she was taking shelter from Hurricane Harvey at a place she felt was safer than her home on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Some of the 35 T-45 jets arrive at Naval Air Station Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. Thirty-five Navy and Marines T-45s arrived at Naval Air Station Fort Worth from Kingsville as part of an evacuation in advance of Hurricane Harvey. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
A windblown seagull looks for food before the approaching Hurricane Harvey hits Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey will soon hit the Texas coast with forecasters saying it's possible for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 25: An oil refinery is seen before the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As Hurricane Harvey comes ashore many of the countries oil refineries are in its path and have had to shut down. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Stewart Adams, of San Marcos, Texas, plays in the winds from Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A group of people race across the street as winds from Hurricane Harvey escalated in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Street signs lie on the ground after winds from Hurricane Harvey escalated in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - AUGUST 26: A street light is knocked off it's base by the winds of Hurricane Harvey on August 26, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey had intensified into a hurricane and hit the Texas coast as damage is being assessed. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PORT LAVACA, TX - AUGUST 25: Waves crash against the coast as Hurricane Harvey intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico in Port Lavaca, TX on Friday, Aug 25, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Strong winds batter seaside houses before the approaching Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey will soon hit the Texas coast with forecasters saying it's possible for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Strong winds batter seaside houses before the approaching Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey will soon hit the Texas coast with forecasters saying it's possible for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Strong winds batter a house on Padre Island before the approaching Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey will soon hit the Texas coast with forecasters saying it is possible expect up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents board up the windows of a home ahead of Hurricane Harvey in Jamaica Beach, Texas, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey�strengthened as it headed toward landfall in Texas, forecast to become the worst storm to strike the region in more than a decade. The price of gasoline�rallied�as it threatened to wreak havoc on the heart of America's energy sector. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A family stands outside their home the morning after their neighborhood was hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A man assesses damage to the First Baptist Church after it was hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Business owner and resident Carlos Lopez clears debris from outside his shop which was hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A McDonald's sign damaged by Hurricane Harvey is seen in Port Lavaca, Texas August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A collapsed overhead gantry lies across Interstate 37, blocking the highway due to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christie, Texas, U.S., August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed?
A destoyed trailor at an RV Park after heavy damage when Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport, Texas on August 26, 2017. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer checks for survivors amongst destroyed houses after heavy damage when Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport, Texas on August 26, 2017. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A destroyed buildingand vehicles at Rockport Airport after heavy damage when Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport, Texas on August 26, 2017. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
ROCKPORT, TX - AUGUST 26: Lee Guerrero tries to kick open a door of an apartment after hearing his friends say they were hiding in the shower stall and were okay after Hurricane Harvey destroyed the apartment on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Harvey made landfall shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, just north of Port Aransas as a Category 4 storm and is being reported as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasts call for as much as 30 inches of rain to fall in the next few days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROCKPORT, TX - AUGUST 26: Valerie Brown walks through a flooded area after leaving the apartment that she road out Hurricane Harvey in on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Harvey made landfall shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, just north of Port Aransas as a Category 4 storm and is being reported as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasts call for as much as 30 inches of rain to fall in the next few days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Texas and US flag are seen as rain from Hurricane Henry falls on August 26, 2017 in Texas City, Texas. Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast late Friday, unleashing torrents of rain and packing powerful winds, the first major storm to hit the US mainland in 12 years. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ROCKPORT, TX - AUGUST 26: A damaged building is seen after Hurricane Harvey passed through on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Harvey made landfall shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, just north of Port Aransas as a Category 4 storm and is being reported as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasts call for as much as 30 inches of rain to fall in the next few days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROCKPORT, TX - AUGUST 26: Terry Smith stands in the apartment that had its ceiling collapse when Hurricane Harvey hit on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Ms. Smith said she has never been as terrified in her life as when the winds started roaring through town. Harvey made landfall shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, just north of Port Aransas as a Category 4 storm and is being reported as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasts call for as much as 30 inches of rain to fall by next Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROCKPORT, TX - AUGUST 26: A Rockport firefighter goes door to door on a search and rescue mission as he looks for people that may need help after Hurricane Harvey passed through on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Harvey made landfall shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, just north of Port Aransas as a Category 4 storm and is being reported as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasts call for as much as 30 inches of rain to fall in the next few days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A fireman walks by a burnt out car that caught fire after Hurricane Harvey hit Corpus Christi, Texas is seen on August 26, 2017. Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast with forecasters saying its possible for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A helicopter hovers above the Houston skyline as sunlight breaks through storm clouds from Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A military helicopter and personnel rescue a stranded resident from floods caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in east Houston, Texas, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A tattered U.S. flag damaged in Hurricane Harvey, flies in Conroe, Texas, U.S., August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ethan holds his 2-year-old daughter Zella as they walk through flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Iowa, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, U.S., on August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nancy McBride is carried out of her flooded home by volunteer Cody Collinsworth, after returning home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People line up at a Walmart store that reopened Friday after Tropical Storm Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescue personnel help Hersey Kirk into a restraint as a rescue helicopter hovers in the distance after she was rescued from her home flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in Rose City, Texas, U.S. on August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Kent Kirk is lifted into a helicopter after being rescued from his home flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey in Rose City, Texas, U.S. on August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Evacuees who were rescued from the flood waters of Tropical Storm Harvey wait to board school buses bound for Louisiana in Vidor, Texas, U.S., on August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Submerged houses are seen by flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Rose City, Texas, U.S., on August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"We have 6,500 employees and I've only been here nine months," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Tuesday in a news conference confirming Perez's death. "But I knew who Steve Perez was because Steve was a sweet, gentle public servant," he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

According to Acevedo, Perez left home Sunday morning over the objections of his wife and father-in-law, and tried for hours to find a safe path to work as heavy rains made many roads impassable. At one point he called his colleagues, suggesting he would try to work from another station.

But by roll call on Monday morning, when police noticed his continued absence, they launched a search, using divers and members of the volunteer Louisiana Cajun Navy who had helped with rescues in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

His body was found Tuesday morning, Acevedo said. An investigation determined he had driven off an overpass that was 16.5 feet high, and drowned in the waters below.

"I'll simply say our hearts our saddened. We grieve for this family. We extend to them our prayers from the entire Houston community and, quite frankly, even beyond," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Tuesday.

Perez is survived by his wife Cheryl, a son, a daughter and his father-in-law, a Korean War veteran.

Acevedo said the department and the city will give Perez full honors. He is the 85th police officer to die in the line of duty in the United States this year, according to the Officer Down memorial page which keeps track of all law enforcement casualties across the United States.

(Reporting by Ruthy Munoz; Additional reporting by Brice Makini; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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