Attorney: Driver in crash that killed Austin Police Officer could face more charges

More charges possible in APD officer's death

AUSTIN - Hours after a memorial service honoring the life of Senior Austin Police Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq, KVUE News learned the ticket issued to Ana Prado, the woman accused of causing the crash that killed him, was dismissed.

"Very strategic move on the part of the city to do that," said Brad Bonilla, attorney for Bonilla Law Firm.

Prado was issued a Class C Misdemeanor for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

"There's a lot of different circumstances that come into play, but sometimes if charges are out there and there's a court battle over those charges, it can actually prevent other charges from being filed," said Bonilla.

"I really think the reason why they pulled the ticket is because they wanted the opportunity to examine the totality of the circumstances to look at the entire situation with a fresh set of eyes before they decide whether to bring any charges at all," he added.

Prado was set to go to court in October. While the ticket was dismissed, the judge wrote the state reserves the right to re-file.

"I think the reason the ticket was pulled so quickly is because of the warning Chief Acevedo gave," Bonilla added.

That "warning" came during a news conference last week.

"If Amir, God forbid, loses his life, I will be pushing, again to bring additional charges," Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

So what could those charges be?

"The two most likely would either be reckless driving or you would look at maybe bringing negligent homicide," said Bonilla.

But he added getting a conviction in either, and even the failure to yield ticket, can be complicated.

To be found guilty of failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, the Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.156 states the officer's vehicle has to be using audible and visual signals, or lights and sirens. Bonilla said it's not clear if officers were using sirens in the escort.

For the other charges, he said a conviction relied heavily on the driver.

"Those charges are really based upon a person's subjective knowledge. Whether they knew the situation was dangerous," Bonilla explained.

For a reckless driving conviction (Class B Misdemeanor), the Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.401 states the driver has to act with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

For a negligent homicide (state jail felony) conviction, the Texas Penal Code Sec. 19.05 states a person is guilty if they cause the death of an individual by criminal negligence. Bonilla said a prosecutor would have to prove a person has a culpable mental state.  Section D of the Texas Penal Code Sec. 6.03 finds someone has a culpable mental state if they ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.

"If the person that had, was in the convoy and that person in the convoy might have waived her through, how can you prove she knew it was dangerous? If the officer's driving at a high rate of speed with his lights on but there's no siren, and she never saw him, there's a lot of different circumstances that can come into play," Bonilla explained.

Bonilla said that's where witnesses will come into play. Adding in a procession, several people would have had a front row seat to observe what happened.

The other issue he finds is while people usually stop for funeral processions, it's not required.

"Texas is one of the states that has no law on the book requiring someone to yield to a funeral procession," Bonilla said. "There might be legitimate questions out there whether she even knew if this was a funeral procession or if she just thought this was normal traffic."

"Unfortunately, people have been injured in funeral processions before and the courts talk about yielding to the funeral procession as a custom and they talk about it as a custom that has sprung forth from human instinct to respect the dead and mourners. But that's a custom, it's not a law."

With that, Bonilla said prosecutors will have to weigh if they want to pursue charges.

"Who's position do you really take? Is the family wanting bygones to be bygones so this is done or is this something the community really wants policed harder," said Bonilla. "It's a tough balance to, you know, to follow."

(© 2016 KVUE)


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