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Port Arthur man accused of hitting, killing Beaumont officer in 2020 wreck set to stand trial soon

Luis Fernando Torres initially pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter but later withdrew his plea.

BEAUMONT, Texas — A 20-year-old Port Arthur man is expected to stand trial soon after a 2020 wreck claimed the life of Beaumont Police Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell

Luis Fernando Torres initially pleaded guilty in April to intoxication manslaughter 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 unclear. The trial is expected to start on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. 

Torres is accused of driving drunk and hitting Officer Yarbrough-Powell and her partner, Officer Gabriel Fells, on August 9, 2020 on Cardinal Drive.

Yarbrough-Powell died at the scene and her partner was seriously injured. Officer Yarbrough-Powell was 23 when she died, and Torres was 18 when the crash took place.

If Torres is convicted he could face anywhere from five to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Torres is currently being held in the Jefferson County Jail on bonds totaling $1 million.

Related: Legal expert says defense will try to convince jury intoxication was not a factor in crash that killed Beaumont officer

Defense Attorney Bruce Smith told 12News the he believes the defense will try to prove that intoxication did not play a role in the 2020 crash. 

Smith is not an attorney on the case but said the attorneys and judge in Torres' trial are second to none.

Related: Beaumont officers, family of Sheena Yarbrough-Powell prepare for 'painful' trial after guilty plea withdrawal

Torres is charged with intoxication manslaughter, intoxication assault and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the 2020 crash.

On the morning the deadly wreck took place, Torres' blood alcohol content was 296 mg/DL, according to a probable cause affidavit. That's more than 3 times the legal limit.

According to court documents, Torres had been drinking at Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant Bar and Grill in Port Arthur before the crash.

Torres is said to have hit the unit the two officers were in head on while driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 69. Torres' "activities" prior to the crash were found on media platforms, according to the affidavit.

"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.

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

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