BEAUMONT, Texas — The intoxication manslaughter trial for a Port Arthur man accused of hitting and killing beloved Beaumont Police Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell resumes Wednesday.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from a July 20, 2022 newscast.)
Luis Torres, 20, is charged with intoxication manslaughter. Torres is accused of driving drunk and hitting Officer Yarbrough-Powell and her partner, Officer Gabriel Fells, on August 9, 2020, on Cardinal Drive.
Police said Torres hit the unit head-on with the two officers inside while he was driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 69.
Related: What a key piece of evidence will be in the trial of a Port Arthur man accused of killing Beaumont officer in 2020 wreck
Torres was 18 years old when the deadly crash took place. According to a probable cause affidavit, his blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit.
Torres initially pleaded guilty in April and was set to be sentenced on Monday, May 23, 2022. Torres withdrew his guilty plea the day he was set to be sentenced, opting to go to trial instead.
The reason for the withdrawal is unknown.
If Torres is convicted, he could face anywhere from five to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
On Wednesday, Beaumont Police Officer Bradley Martin was the first to take the stand. He testified that he knew Officers Fells and Yarbrough-Powell well.
“She was one of the best officers I’ve ever known," Officer Martin said. "It didn’t matter who you were or what you were doing. She would treat you with the most compassion and if you needed it she would treat you lie a mom. She would mother anybody."
Officer Martin responded to the scene of the deadly crash. His body cam video was played in court.
Officer Martin told the court he put on gloves and described using his hands to break through the windshield to get inside the car. He testified he could not get through the passenger or driver’s side of the car.
Sobbing was heard in the courtroom as Officer Martin described the injuries he saw on both officers. He said he hid Officer Yarbrough-Powell’s condition from Officer Wells.
“His injuries were so severe that I was scared that if he learned that she had passed that he would also pass,” he testified.
12News had a crew at Tuesday's court proceedings.
Court proceedings began with an opening statement from the prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Waylon Thompson said, "this will be a week of misery" for everyone in the courtroom. Thompson said they planned to show pictures of the final seconds of Officer Yarbrough-Powell's life.
Thompson's believes those images will not leave anyone's head once the trial is finished.
“We’re going to put witnesses on the witness stand who are going to give you details the kind of which you wish you never had to hear," Thompson said. "We’re going to introduce photographs that you are never going to be able to get out your head because they are that bad. Prepare yourselves.”
The defense chose not to give an opening statement.
The jury heard from someone who witnessed the crashed and Officer Fells during the first day of court proceeding. Officer Fells was driving the Beaumont Police Unit that he and Officer Yarbrough-Powell were in.
Jurors also saw the dash cam footage from the deadly wreck.
"As a police officer there are a lot of times, there's a lot of instances where we have to give a death notification and there's a very specific cry that a mother does when they lose their child and anyone who loses a loved one," Officer Haley Morrow said. "That's very difficult to hear. It's heart wrenching, gut wrenching."
Officer Morrow said Beaumont Police will be there for Officer Yarbrough-Powell's family every step of the way.
"We'll do everything that we can to keep her memory alive and be there for her family as we move forward through this chapter, and hopefully and it to get justice for Sheena," Officer Morrow said.
This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.
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