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Port Arthur man pleads guilty to intoxication manslaughter in 2020 head-on wreck that killed Beaumont officer

He could have faced five to 99 years if found guilty at trial but the plea will cap his sentence at no more 30 years.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The Port Arthur man who had been set to stand trial this week on an intoxication manslaughter charge in the 2020 death of a Beaumont Police officer has pleaded guilty.

Torres, who was 18 at the time of the wreck, pleaded guilty to a charge of intoxication manslaughter and as part of the plea agreement will not be sentenced to more than 30 years in prison on the charge.

Luis Fernando Torres, 20, of Port Arthur, was going to start his trial this week on charges that he was intoxicated when he struck a Beaumont Police unit head-on while driving the wrong way on U.S. Highway 69.

Beaumont officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, 23, of Lumberton was killed in the wreck and her partner was seriously injured.

Defense attorney Tom Burbank announced during court Tuesday that a plea agreement had been reached with the district attorney's office.

Torres also faced an intoxication assault charge for seriously injuring officer Gabriel Fells but as part of the plea agreement that charge will be reduced to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He will plead guilty to the lower charge on Wednesday and face not more than 20 years in prison on that charge.

Judge Stevens will sentence Torres on May 23, 2022, on both charges which will run concurrently so he will not face more than 30 years in total.

Because he has pleaded guilty Torres will forfeit any right to appeal his case. 

Jury selection had been set to begin Tuesday in Jefferson County's Criminal District Court before Judge John Stevens.

If he had been convicted in a trial he could have faced from five to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Jefferson County prosecutor Pat Knauth, assisted by Keith Giblin and Waylon Thompson, is leading the prosecution for the state.

Torres, who was 18 at the time of the wreck, has been in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility where he is being held on total bonds of $750,000 since the wreck according to jail records.

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.

Torres' 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.

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.

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.

She was sworn in as an officer in December 2018.

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

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