A motorist who fatally struck a 6-year-old with his truck in a Houston parking lot was on probation for one of his multiple DWI charges, according to authorities.
Pedro Alberto Hernandez, 52, was charged with murder and DWI for the Oct. 1 accident. Sean Teare, chief of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office vehicular crimes division, told KHOU-11 it was the driver’s fourth DWI arrest.
Darien Lewis’ family is devastated and outraged. They believed his death could have been avoided.
Hernandez was serving probation for a 2020 DWI conviction and was required to have a breathalyzer on his vehicle ignition, reports show. However, according to court documents, Hernandez admitted to drinking four 16-ounce beers before hitting the boy.
“They let him get away. The buck has to stop somewhere,” Dana Hubbard, Darien’s grandfather, told ABC13. “Someone has to be held accountable for their actions. No more slap on the wrist.”
Hubbard describes his grandson as a respectable little boy with autism who loved to play with stuffed animals. He was just learning more words and was very affectionate, Hubbard added. Darien was walking across a parking lot in front of a laundromat with his grandfather and cousins when he was struck by Hernandez’s truck.
“He came in on my left side and hit my grandson. That’s how close he was to me,” Hubbard said. “I was able to hit his car to let him know what happened. I ran around, and I said, ‘You just hit my grandson.’ He stopped, he backed up, drove over my grandson again, and stopped his truck on his head.”
Court documents show Hernandez ran over the boy three times. His grandfather said the man had a smirk on his face the last time.
“I swung out on him because he was laughing and thought it was funny,” Hubbard said.
Reports show Hubbard pulled Hernandez from his car and pinned him against the truck’s hood. Then other witnesses held down the driver.
Hernandez’s bond was set to $600,000, but it was raised Tuesday to $950,000.
Driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor in Texas. However, a third DWI will result in a felony charge. Teare said Harris County, where the incident happened, was one of the first in the state to tag a felony charge to DWI offenses in an effort to reduce drunk driving. If convicted of Darien’s murder, Hernandez could face life in prison.
Hernandez’s wife told ABC13 she wanted to apologize to the family. She maintains her husband could not have been drinking because his truck would not turn on without him using a breathalyzer.
The device measures the amount of alcohol on a driver’s breath. The vehicle won’t start if the driver’s blood alcohol level exceeds the set limit. However, the driver can try the test again after 15 minutes, research shows. If the vehicle starts after the second time, the breathalyzer then initiates a test every 5 to 15 minutes.
Research shows that the devices usually need to be serviced and calibrated at least every 30 days.
All 50 states require the devices for certain DUI or DWI offenses. In Texas, the court must order an offender to install the devices on all motor vehicles he or she owns when their license is suspended. The offender can choose a hard suspension with no interlock, according to the Nation Conference of State Legislatures.