BEAUMONT, Texas — A Port Arthur man was sentenced to 20 years after being found guilty of intoxication manslaughter in connection with a deadly 2020 wreck that claimed the life of Beaumont Police Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell.
The punishment phase in the trial of Luis Torres began Monday. On Friday, July 22, 2022, Torres was found guilty of driving drunk and hitting and killing Officer Yarbrough-Powell on August 9, 2020, on Cardinal Drive.
Beaumont Officer Gabriel Fells was seriously injured in the 2020 crash. 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.
On Monday, Torres admitted he was blackout drunk when the wreck took place.
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.
Defense Attorney Tom Burbank asked the jury to consider Torres' history, lack of a criminal record and the fact that he was a good student taking college courses. Burbank asked the jury to consider probation.
Prosecutors said justice had not been served yet and that the jury is getting the last word for Officer Yarbrough-Powell. Prosecutors told the jury Torres had a "narcissistic lack of sincerity" during his testimony.
"I have no sympathy for him,” Assistant District Attorney Waylon Thompson said
Torres was the fifth person to take the stand in his own punishment phase. He admitted to being drunk and not remembering the crash.
Torres said he never intended to take anyone's life when he woke up that morning.
"If I could switch places with her I would. I committed an offense that I will have to live with the rest of my life. I know what I did was wrong," he said.
Torres admitted the deadly 2020 crash was a result of his actions.
“I’ve been wanting to say this for the longest," he said while looking at Officer Yarbrough-Powell's family in court. "I know no words or apology can ever reverse what I did. I know she was an amazing person she was loved by everybody. I didn’t want this to happen."
Torres said he feels disgusted with himself and prays every day for the family of Officer Yarbrough-Powell. He said he also prays for their forgiveness.
“I can’t help but look at all of you and think of how much pain I caused to all of you. I see a wedding commercial, I think of her husband. I see a cop, I think of co-workers," he said.
During cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Torres why he did not say he was sorry until he was asked by the defense attorney. The prosecutor told him, this was his chance to apologize.
“I want you guys to know that I deeply am sorry that I took your daughter, that I took your sister, your wife, your co-worker,” Torres said.
Torres also answered questions about attending school, his high academic achievements and plans he had for the future. Torres testified that the reason he did not have a driver's license is because the Texas Department of Public Safety testing was closed due to COVID-19.
The first witness to take the stand in the punishment phase of the trial was Torres' 15-year-old sister.
After being questioned by Burbank, the witness said she always looked up to her brother growing up. She said Torres was always there for her, and he was always someone she could turn to when needed.
The prosecution did not cross-examine her.
The second witness called to the stand by the defense was Vanessa De La Rosa, a long-time friend of the Torres family.
While speaking through a translator in court, De La Rosa said she's known the family for around 13 years, and her sons were good friends and classmates with Torres.
De La Rosa testified that Torres was very respectable and had a promising future ahead of him. He even had a scholarship to go to college, she said. The prosecution did not cross-examiner her.
The mother of Louis Torres was the third witness to take the stand during the punishment phase. While speaking through a translator, she broke down in tears saying how hard this has been on her family.
The prosecutor did not cross-examine her.
A teacher from Bob Hope High School, where Torres attended, was the fourth witness to testify. He said that Torres was taking dual-credit courses in order to receive college credit while still in high school and was also working two jobs.
During cross-examination, prosecution asked if he was close to Torres as a teacher. He said yes.
The prosecutor also asked if it was disappointing that even after being a mentor to Torres, something like this happened anyway. The witness said yes.
Coverage from day four of the trial is below.
During closing arguments, Burbank reminded the jury that prior to the deadly crash, Torres had never been in trouble
“In an instant, it’s all changed,” Burbank said.
Burbank told the jury there’s no getting around the fact that Torres took a life, or that his blood alcohol was above the legal limit. However, Burbank stated the driver of the Beaumont Police unit did not take evasive actions and did not brake until half a second before impact.
Burbank encouraged the jury to consider causation, pointing out the cat in the car and the fact that neither officers were wearing seatbelts.
The prosecution in closing arguments told the jury the family of the officer wants justice.
“I do agree with Mr. Burbank on one phrase," Thompson said. "Everything has a consequence."
Thompson stated said there are no winners because of Torres' decision. Thompson said it is not Officers Fells and Yarbrough-Powell did not cause their own deaths.
"That is victim blaming,” Thompson said.
Watch coverage from day three of the trial below.
Court proceedings began Tuesday, July 19, 2022. On Tuesday the jury heard from someone who witnessed the crash and Officer Fells. 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. The footage was described as images that images would not leave anyone's head once the trial is finished.
Beaumont Police Officer Bradley Martin was the first to take the stand on Wednesday. Officer Martin said he knew both Officer Fells and Yarbrough-Powell well and responded to the scene of the deadly crash.
Officer Martin’s bodycam video was played in court, and sobbing was heard in the courtroom as he described the injuries he saw on both officers.
Officer Martin testified that he used his hands to break through the windshield to get inside Beaumont Police unit because he could not get through the passenger or driver’s side of the car.
Officer Martin said he hid Officer Yarbrough-Powell’s condition from Officer Wells stating that, "his injuries were so severe that I was scared that if he learned that she had passed that he would also pass."
Watch coverage from day two of the trial below.
The second witness to testify in court Wednesday was Beaumont Police Department Field Training Officer Daniel Bacchiocchi.
Officer Bacchiocchi also responded to scene of the crash and assisted EMS as they evaluated Torres. Officer Bacchiocchi testified that Torres' eyes were red and bloodshot and that the then 18-year-old was being uncooperative with emergency crews.
"Not much," is what bodycam footage pick up Torres telling emergency crews when they asked how much he had to drink.
Six people took the stand during Thursday court proceeding. The first was Beaumont Police Department Crime Scene Technician Michelle Ceja.
Jury members were shown photos of Torres and his injuries taken at the scene of the crash along with the damaged vehicles.
Burbank asked Ceja if she saw troopers taking photos at the scene and if she had gone anywhere else to collect evidence. Ceja answered no to both questions.
The second person to take the stand testified that she was having a family get together the night of the crash. She stated Torres was at her apartment, drunk a beer while he was there and was drinking before he arrived.
The witness said she did not know Torres not 21.
The witness testified that Torres seemed drunk to her before he left. She said she was worried about him leaving and offered for him to sleep on the couch, but Torres refused.
Burbank asked the witness how many people were at the party when he showed up, and the witness listed four people.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Kasey Carrier was the third person to take the stand. He said he instructed a registered nurse to do a blood draw on Torres the night of the deadly crash.
The fourth witness called to the stand was Ronnie Hamilton, a registered nurse from Christus St. Elizabeth. Hamilton said she made sure she saw the warrant for a blood draw from Carrier and asked Torres if he approved.
The fifth witness was Trooper Francisco Rangel. Rangel was questioned about the day he took the blood sample kit and its contents to the lab in Houston.
Rangel testified he did not tamper with the kit and its contents.
The court took a drastic and emotional turn when Forensic Pathology Specialist Dr. Ray Fernandez took the stand. Dr. Fernandez said Officer Yarbrough-Powell suffered multiple fractures to her skull.
Prior to showing photos, Officer Yarbrough-Powell's family was asked to step out. The judge said the court of appeals would not allow autopsy pictures because the pictures are gruesome.
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.
Watch coverage from day one of the trial below.
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