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APD Defends Police Pursuit Turned Deadly

Andy Uhler, KUT News

Assistant Austin Police chief Sean Mannix today said officers followed proper protocol in a high speed chase Friday – but added that the chase would have been “terminated in a matter of seconds” had the suspect not crashed into another car, killing an innocent motorist.

32-year old James Williford was hit and killed by a Ford F-250 allegedly driven by Reynaldo Victor Hernandez Jr. Hernandez was running from police when he raced through a red light and crashed into James  Williford’s Mitsubishi Lancer.

“This happened in a manner of seconds – less than a minute and a half from the time the officer got behind the vehicle until the crash occurred,” said Mannix.

“From what I have seen and what I have read, at this point I have every reason to believe that the pursuit would have been terminated in a matter of seconds had the collision not occurred,” Mannix continued, saying that at the time of the crash, the truck was so far ahead of the police that the collision was not captured by APD dash cameras.

Police were called about an auto theft in progress at Barton Creek Mall on Friday afternoon. Police quickly gave pursuit to the F-250 they say Hernandez had stolen. Mannix says Hernandez drove eastward down the Capital of Texas Highway at speeds approaching 100 mph, before exiting onto Ben White Boulevard, where he  drove on the road shoulder and ran two lights, eventually colliding with Williford.

Mannix speculated as to the popularity of truck thefts: “The F-250s and other larger, full-sized four-door pick-up trucks are used extensively in the ‘coyote’ transport of illegal immigrants across the border,” he told the media. “A good deal of our F-250s that are stolen in Austin are recovered in border counties and border cities. It’s a problem throughout Texas, that particular make and model being stolen.”

Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder along with three other felonies. Bail was set at $1.21 million.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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