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Man accused of killing Beaumont officer in 2020 head-on wreck withdraws guilty plea, will stand trial

His trial has been set for July 2022.

BEAUMONT, Texas — A Port Arthur man who previously pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter in the 2020 death of a Beaumont Police officer has withdrawn his plea and will now stand trial.

Luis Fernando Torres, 20, of Port Arthur, had pleaded guilty in April 2022 in the death of Beaumont officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, 23, of Lumberton.

On Monday morning Torres and his attorney told Judge John Stevens in Jefferson County's Criminal District Court that he was withdrawing his plea and was opting to go to trial.

Stevens set his trial date for July 18, 2022, on the intoxication manslaughter charge. He will be tried on a separate charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for injuring  Yarbrough-Powell's partner in the wreck. That trial date has not yet been set.

If Torres, who was 18 at the time of the wreck, is convicted at trial he could face from five to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

“Mr. Torres, this is your case, your life,” said Judge Stevens as he asked the him if he had discussed this with his attorney and still wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.

“Is it your decision this morning that you wish to withdraw your earlier plea of guilty in this case?” asked the judge.

“Yes, your honor," Torres replied.

He had been set to stand trial in April 2022 on the intoxication manslaughter charge but pleaded guilty just before jury selection started in his trial.

His blood alcohol content was 296 mg/DL the morning of the crash according to a probable cause affidavit. That's more than 3 times the legal limit.

Police say he struck a Beaumont Police unit head-on while driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 69.

He had faced an intoxication assault charge for seriously injuring officer Gabriel Fells but the charge was reduced as part of his guilty plea.

Torres has been in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility since the wreck happened.

Officer Yarbrough-Powell died at the scene of the wreck which happened in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 9, 2020, in the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 69 near the Texas 347 overpass.

Her partner, officer Fells , who was 28 at the time, was seriously injured in the wreck.

The affidavit says his 'activities' before the crash were found on 'media platforms.'

"Additional information about Torres' activities leading to this event were found on several different media platforms, Torres own admission to consuming alcohol, and witnesses testimony all illustrate a night of heavy drinking," investigators said. 

Torres was booked into the Jefferson County jail on Thursday, August, 13, 2020.

She was sworn in as an officer in December 2018.

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The Beaumont Police SUV cruiser the officers were riding in was struck head-on by Torres, who was going south in the northbound lanes according to the affidavit.

Police say Torres was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang with its headlights off headed the wrong way on Cardinal Drive near the Highway 347 overpass when he struck the officer’s cruiser.

Powell, a 2015 Lumberton High School graduate, received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Lamar University and then completed the police academy at Lamar Institute of Technology.

This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.

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