AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) – A 24-year-old man was arrested in south Austin Saturday night following a deadly collision between a car and a pedestrian, according to an arrest affidavit.
Witnesses to the crash told Austin Police they saw a Ford Focus hit a man pushing a shopping cart at the intersection of Slaughter Lane and Menchaca Road around 10:30 p.m Saturday.
After hitting the pedestrian, the man, later identified as Paul Joseph Garcia Jr., continued to drive on Menchaca Road, the affidavit says.
The affidavit says witnesses saw Garcia Jr. pull the car over and “calmly” walk away from it. Later, Garcia Jr. was seen walking barefoot just south of the scene at the South Austin Beer Garden, the affidavit says.
David Pearce, the co-owener of the South Austin Beer Garden said his door staff recognized something was wrong almost immediately. They met him at the door and tried to calm him down. Surveillance video shows that Garcia Jr. emerged from a drainage ditch without shoes on.
“We didn’t know what kind of trouble he was in, we just knew it was bad,” Pearce said. “He was in tears. He was distraught. In a panicked state. You could see he had tears in his eyes and it looked like he was running from something.
Police officers showed up to the South Austin Beer Garden shortly after and detained the 24-year-old.
When officers spoke with Garcia, he “alluded” to the crash and was detained by police. Garcia Jr. was not served alcohol at South Austin Beer Garden, according to the affidavit. Officers gave Garcia a field sobriety test and decided that he was unable to safely drive the car due to alcohol or drugs in his system.
An investigator reported in the affidavit that Garcia’s car was traveling at a high speed based off evidence at the scene. The impact was reportedly so great that the victim flew through the windshield and fully entered the vehicle’s passenger seat.
Police say that Garcia also drove for half a mile with the victim still in the seat.
The affidavit says the shopping cart was pushed into a cluster of mailboxes. The cart hit the mailboxes with a force that was able to bend a two-inch thick galvanized, steel post.
Witnesses told police they saw the car driving at a high speed and without its headlights on.
The affidavit says, even though the pedestrian was in the road at the time of the crash, Garcia’s intoxication and alleged reckless driving support the charge of intoxication manslaughter.
Garcia Jr. is charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter, in addition to a failure to stop and render aid charge. His bail is set at $80,000 and he will not be able to drive and has been ordered to wear a blood alcohol monitor.
As of Wednesday morning, he is in custody of Travis County Jail.
“I wasn’t surprised”
Other business owners in this section of South Austin said Manchaca Road can be dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians.
They said there is a large community of homeless men and women in the area and there are few crosswalks for them to use, especially south of Slaughter Lane.
“There are more pedestrians around here than you would realize,” said Shelly Weiser, the owner of The Hive, a coffee shop and daycare just north of the Beer Garden.
Weiser said there have been community efforts to lower the speed limit in the area; something she said would be beneficial for drivers.
“This main strip is a very wide road, so it’s tempting to go extra fast,” Weiser said. “It does worry me, I see little kids playing here.”
She said she learned of the fatal crash through the KXAN News app, but she wasn’t shocked when she learned it happened right outside her store.
“I wasn’t surprised. It was very said, but it’s just par for the course and not surprising for this area anymore, sadly,” Weiser said.
Both Weiser and Pearce hope this can be a lesson for everyone: Be safe behind the wheel.
“It could have been any of us. It could have been friends, family, any of us. It’s rough, you know, to lose someone. Prayers to their family,” Pearce said.
Fatal Pedestrian Crashes
Six pedestrians have been killed on roads in Austin so far this year.
Most are east of I-35 and South of Lady Bird Lake. Police reports also show we’re on track to see more deaths this year than the previous two years.
Thirty-five pedestrians were hit and killed in 2019. Thirty-one were killed in 2018.
(Information from KXAN.com)