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Posted: 10/16/2004 11:11:57 AM EDT
Big Rig In Police Chase Pushes Vehicles Out Of Way
Officers Shoot At 18-Wheeler To Stop It

POSTED: 2:56 p.m. CDT October 15, 2004
UPDATED: 6:06 p.m. CDT October 15, 2004

Story by Click2Houston

SUGAR LAND, Texas -- An 18-wheeler driver led dozens of police officers on a high-speed chase along the Southwest Freeway Friday afternoon and barreled through cars stopped in front of him, Local 2 reported.

The chase started in Bellaire at 2 p.m., police said. The driver, identified as Hector Barraza, drove his 53-foot trailer to what he thought was his delivery location and then got angry when he found out it was the wrong address, company officials said. Police said he then rammed his truck into the building and drove off.

"It began in Bellaire, inside the 610 Loop. It started out as a hit-and-run and we located the vehicle pretty quickly and he ran into one patrol car in Bellaire and then out (in Sugar Land)," said Cpl. Daniel Kerr, of the Bellaire Police Department.

Barraza then sped down the freeway, weaving in and out of traffic and sometimes driving on the shoulder, officers said.

Several law enforcement agencies joined the chase to try to stop him.

At the University exit in Sugar Land, traffic was stopped on the freeway, so the driver pushed the vehicles in front of him out of the way, according to witnesses. The big rig hit a box truck, minivan, pickup truck and at least one another vehicle. No one was seriously injured.

"Before I knew it, the 18-wheeler was in the middle lane where I was in the right-hand lane and he didn't stop. He kept going and he jammed the cars into my car. The police officer started shooting at his car with their pistols and their shotguns -- at the tires -- and I took off," said Sam Rodriguez, who was caught in the accident.

"We became very concerned he was going to kill somebody. At that time, we started firing rounds at the truck to disable the tires, disable the radiator," said Sgt. Paul Mosely, of the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Department.

Spikes that were put down in the road punctured one of the big rig's tires, but the driver did not immediately stop. Officers then drew their weapons.

"Sheriff's deputies threw spikes out. He went off in the grass to avoid the spikes. A couple of sheriff's deputies got out and fired their shotguns in the radiator to stop him," said Robert Spears, a witness.

About 30 minutes after the chase began, the driver stopped in the median past the Grand Parkway exit on Highway 59 in Sugar Land.

Dozens of officers surrounded the cab and pulled the driver out. He was apprehended at the scene.

"We have no idea why he was running. He was a newly hired person with this trucking company. I was told there was other people in the truck with him when he had the wreck and the two females that were with him jumped out of the truck and ran off. We really don't know why he did what he did," Mosely said.

Several charges are pending, including assault on a police officer.

"We'll be filing charges in Harris County and I'm sure we'll be coordinating with Fort Bend County and Meadows P.D. as to whatever charges are in Fort Bend County," Kerr said.

Officers said that they found a small amount of cocaine in the cab of the 18-wheeler.

Officers closed all the southbound lanes at the Sweetwater exit on Highway 59 until the scene was cleared. The lanes were reopened at 4:50 p.m. Traffic was backed up for miles.

"I'm very glad he's off the road. I'm a CDL driver. I hold a CDL license also and it gives a lot of us bad names when somebody does something stupid like this," Spears said.

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