Newschannel 6 has learned more about why Officer Teddie Whitefield has not been arrested or charged in the deaths of two teenagers and an unborn child he killed in a car crash in his police cruiser on June 30th.
13-year-old Gloria Montoya and 18-year-old Yeni Lopez, who was eight months pregnant, died in the accident.
In the 139 days since the accident, there have been very few answers about why the criminal proceedings against then Officer Teddie Whitefield have not brought an arrest or charges. We sat down with Criminal Attorney Rick Bunch to find out why.
The Department of Public Safety was brought in to investigate and handle the report since Whitefield was a police officer and city employee. The DPS report is now complete. It showed Whitefield was driving 80 miles per hour when he crashed into the car carrying the two girls. He was not wearing his seatbelt, was not responding to an emergency call and did not have his flashing lights on at the time of the crash. The toxicology report information Newschannel 6 obtained shows Whitefield had Xanax and a prescription diet pill in his system.
Newschannel 6 has learned there is a problem with the toxicology report. Bunch says it is standard in a serious car accident to take a urine sample and a blood sample. A urine sample was taken. A blood sample was not, which could make it difficult to prove Whitefield was intoxicated. A urine sample shows what is in someone's system. A blood test can show you how much. Bunch says, "You may have a therapeutic amount in your body or even less, but it will only show a trace with urine analysis. It won't give you a specific finding. A blood test is a more sure test, but also has flaws. It will usually come back with a reading with amounts involved."
The police officers who responded to the scene would have been responsible for drawing Whitefield's blood. Bunch comments, "You got the police policing the police. They take care of their own to some degree, and I don't know what the situation was out there, but I think the PD has some explaining to do."
The toxicology and accident reports are not yet in the hands of the District Attorney's office. The D.A. will have to review the case to decide whether Whitefield will be charged and what he would be charged with.
At this point Bunch says there are some options the D.A. can take. "They got two choices here. They can either try and charge him with Criminal Negligent Homicide, the easier to prove or they can go with Intoxication Manslaughter."
The District Attorney's Office will send recommendations to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury will decide whether to indict Whitefield on the charges. It would not be until after that, that the criminal proceedings would begin.
Whitefield could face one of the charges for each death. That includes the unborn child.
A person found guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter could face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A person found guilty of Criminal Negligent Homicide could face 180 days to two years behind bars.
Bunch says if Whitefield is indicted by the Grand jury, Whitefield and the city of Wichita Falls could face a civil lawsuit as well. The civil lawsuit would be brought on by the surviving family of the two girls and the unborn child killed in the accident.
Bunch comments, "The City is not going to be criminally liable for anything but they certainly have the civil side. They have to look at it as if the city knew of his driving fast or using drugs while driving. If that is the case then the City has got some big problems."
Bunch says if this accident would have happened to any other person, things would have been different. "If it would of been a John Doe and hit these people they would take him down and drew blood. He would be sitting in jail for at least 90 days, waiting for a drug test to come back. If it didn't come back in those 90 days they'd let him go. He's not clear though. He would still need to go to trial."
Ronnie Molina disagrees with Bunch's opinion on how the evidence was taken. "They were following protocol by doing a urine analysis exam. He was not under an active investigation, there was no reason to believe he was intoxicated. To their knowledge the officer was cooperating, because he wasn't unconscious and he gave a urine sample. If he had been unconscious and they hadn't taken (blood), that would have been very questionable."
We also asked WFPD what their protocol is when responding to a serious or potentially fatal accident.
Manuel Borrego, WFPD Deputy Chief, said via e-mail that the department's "procedure for 'Consent to Taking of Specimen' is outlined by the Texas Transportation Code section: 724.011.
THAT CODE SECTION READS AS FOLLOWS: Sec. 724.011. CONSENT TO TAKING OF SPECIMEN. (a) If a person is arrested for an offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was operating a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft, while intoxicated, or an offense under Section 106.041, Alcoholic Beverage Code, the person is deemed to have consented, subject to this chapter, to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person's breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person's body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance.
(b) A person arrested for an offense described by Subsection (a) may consent to submit to the taking of any other type of specimen to determine the person's alcohol concentration.
Rick Bunch tells Newschannel 6 if a civil lawsuit is brought on by the surviving family, the City could have to pay up to a $500,000 for each death.
Click here to look at the DPS accident report, the timeline of events, Whitefield's suspension letter and appeal, as well as our raw interview with Criminal Attorney Rick Bunch.