‘Grateful to be here.’ Suspect indicted as APD officer who was hit continues recovery

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN)– This week, a Travis County Grand Jury indicted a man accused of hitting and injuring an Austin Police officer on Interstate 35.

At the time of the crash, family told KXAN that Officer Abel Garza fractured his hip.

Mugshot of Jose Hernandez-Garcia (Austin Police Department)

“This will affect him for the rest of his life, all because one person thought it was OK to drive after drinking,” the officer’s daughter Sara Rountree said.

On Thursday, Jose Hernandez-Garcia was indicted on a first-degree felony charge of Intoxication Assault of a Peace Officer and a third-degree felony charge of Accident Involving Serious Bodily Injury.

According to court records, the crash happened on Sept. 1, 2019 in the southbound lanes of I-35.

According to an affidavit, Officer Abel Garza had the emergency lights of his motorcycle unit activated while he and another officer blocked lanes of traffic as workers were moving barricades from the road. Then, a driver in a dark-colored car crashed into the back of Garza’s motorcycle and continued to drive south.

“That’s one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be in.”

Austin Police Association President, Ken Casaday

About 10 minutes later, an officer with the University of Texas at Austin Police Department found the vehicle in the 1100 block of E Marin Luther King Jr. Blvd. with damage to the passenger side and a piece of the APD officer’s unit still attached. Officers linked the car to Hernandez-Garcia.

Officer Abel Garza (Photo provided by: Sara Rountree)

At the time, Hernandez-Garcia admitted to police that he didn’t stop when the crash happened because he was scared of being arrested and deported. He also admitted to drinking two “baby-sized” beers.

Garza’s daughter told KXAN he’s on the road to recovery.

“He’s actually gone from being bed bound to walking with a cane in a matter of five months. He still has pain he has to live with every day, but is very grateful to be here,” Rountree said.

She said her father received a Purple Heart in November from the the Austin Police Department.

“He’s doing amazing,” Rountree said.

Move Over, Slow Down

“Anytime you stop someone on the highway, that’s one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be in,” Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said. “Just this year multiple officers in the state of Texas have been killed in scenarios just like that.”

He urged drivers to remember the “Move Over, Slow Down” law that states motorists must slow their speed or even move to another lane when they see any police, fire, or emergency vehicles with their lights flashing.

“The flashing red and blue lights tend to attract drunk drivers, unfortunately,” Casaday said.

On Friday morning, Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a suspected drunk driver. While they were stopped on the side of the road, another driver smashed into their unit. The Sheriff’s Office said that driver was also arrested on a DWI charge.

“It’s very important for the community to know they must change their lane if another lane is available or if not to reduce their speed by 20 miles less than the posted speed limit,” Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said. “Not just for the officers’ protection, but the violator they are trying to deal with at the time.”

Casaday said law enforcement writes “hundreds, if not thousands,” of tickets a year for the Move Over, Slow Down violation.

“The thing that I ask of drivers is just to be a defensive driver. Don’t be aggressive, but be defense,” Casaday said.

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