Man sentenced to 10 years after deadly crash

BROWNSVILLE — A Brownsville man will spend one decade in prison for drunken driving that resulted in the death of a passenger during an early morning accident in 2016, according to court documents.

Arturo Vasquez, 21, was sentenced by the 357th state District Court on Friday morning to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections, court documents show. Vasquez pleaded guilty in September to intoxication manslaughter.

Vasquez, who was 19 at the time of the accident, was driving at a high rate of speed in an orange 2010 Chevrolet Camaro on March 6, 2016, when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree between 2 and 2:30 a.m. on the 1900 block of Old Port Isabel Road, killing his passenger, 21-year-old Erasmo Avila, who died at the scene.

Authorities extracted Vasquez from the vehicle and transported him to Valley Baptist Medical Center for serious injuries. Later that morning, police arrested Vasquez at the hospital, court records show.

According to police records, a Brownsville Independent School District police officer saw the Camaro and a black pickup traveling at high rates of speed and attempted to catch up with the vehicles. That officer then saw the Camaro traveling against traffic near Hackberry Lane and activated emergency lights to warn motorists of the danger, court records show. The BISD officer witnessed the Camaro lose control, hit a tree and catch on fire, which the officer extinguished.

After the officer extracted Vasquez from the vehicle, the officer reported smelling alcohol and believed Vasquez was “heavily intoxicated,” documents show. Both Vasquez and Avila were at a bar earlier that night, court records show.

Before the crash, Brownsville police were investigating multiple reports of shots being fired, police records show. According to police reports filed in the case, police found the victim, Avila, with “what appeared to be a AK-47 rifle in his left arm.” Authorities also discovered casings and rifle cartridges in the vehicle, but there was no evidence that gunfire hit the Camaro, according to court documents.

Those same police reports state that a black truck and an orange Camaro reportedly were chasing each other and discharging fire just before the accident. Although the police later found a black pickup matching the description, police didn’t find any weapons in the vehicle.