HOUSTON – On the night of Sept. 11, 2016, 58-year old Bertha Lazcano Guerra was driving home on U.S. Highway 290 when a 5,000-pound truck fell from the sky and crushed the sport utility vehicle she was in. The mother of four children and grandmother of two, never saw it coming.
"Mom was in an accident, and she didn't make it," says Crystal Lazcano, Bertha's daughter.
Behind the steering wheel of the Ford F-150 was Orlando Reyna, who police say struck an impact barrier with such force that it lifted the truck airborne. Reyna, the 40-year old principal of Madison High School, along with a passenger, emerged from the wreckage with only minor injuries. He told police that he had been at Brick House Tavern, according to a lawsuit filed by the family.
"I feel like they should have arrested him and taken him in," explains Crystal. "I mean, he admitted he was coming from Brick House Tavern. There should be consequences." But at the site of the deadly accident, not one but two Houston Police Department officers said they could not detect any evidence that Reyna was intoxicated.
As a safeguard, the officers had asked Reyna to submit to a Breathalyzer sobriety test, but he refused.
Reyna's attorney is Chris Tritico, who also serves as the Fox 26 senior legal analyst.
"You have an absolute right in the United States of America to say, 'No, thank you,' and he did," says Tritico.
With Reyna refusing the sobriety test, it was up to a Harris County assistant district attorney to seek a warrant to test his blood. A spokesman for the district attorney's office says that based upon the officers' assessment that Reyna did not appear drunk, there was "insufficient probable cause" for the prosecutor to ask a judge to force Reyna to provide a blood sample.
Reyna was allowed to leave and so far, no criminal charges have been filed against him.
In the meantime, Bertha Lazcano's daughters say they've been left without clear answers.
"It's not fair, it's not right," says Bertha Lazcano, the victim's daughter and namesake.
"There should have been a complete and thorough investigation," says John Ramsey, an attorney for the Lazcano family.
Insisting construction hazards, not alcohol caused the accident, Reyna's attorney contends the law in this deadly incident was followed appropriately.
"As sad as this is for this family, probable cause doesn't change based on the gravity of the situation," explains Tritico. "Constitutionally, it stays the same in every case and in this case, there was no probable cause to stab somebody in the arm and draw their blood."
A "judgment call" based upon human observation, but no science. Lawyers for the Lazcano family say other states and jurisdictions leave less to chance when a life is lost.
"There are in fact other counties where anytime there is a fatality, not only is a full investigation done, but that full investigation is presented to the grand jury in every instance," says Ramsey. "That doesn't happen in Harris County."
Lazcano's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Reyna, alleging that the negligence of Madison High School principal cost their loved one her life.
"Because my mom's life mattered," says Bertha Lazcano.
"I'm fighting because my mom was a fighter and I feel it's what's right, to make sure her story is heard," says Crystal.
A story which ended well before it should in a terrible instant on the Northwest Freeway.
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