The attorney representing the teenager who hit six cyclists with a pickup while trying to “roll coal” has shared a statement as to why Waller Police didn’t arrest the 16-year old. The attorney, Rick DeToto, claims the teenager is a “new and inexperienced driver,” who had no criminal intent when he ran over the cyclists.
The following is the full statement DeToto gave the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday:
My client is a young man in high school with college aspirations. He’s a very new and inexperienced driver. This was a serious accident but did not involve any criminal intent. He immediately called 911, helped with the injured and cooperated with police. The family prays for the speedy recovery of the riders involved and we look forward to cooperating with investigators.
DeToto also provided the following comments to KPRC, emphasis mine:
The police did an investigation at the scene. This included speaking with eyewitnesses to the accident. After their investigation, they decided not to charge my client and did not even issue him a traffic ticket. Clearly, they determined a crime had not occurred. My client stopped immediately, called 911, attempted to render aid and cooperated with police.
The Waller Police Department issued its own statement prior to DeToto, but the police did not say whether (or not) the teenager committed a crime. Waller PD said their investigation is still ongoing, and whatever information comes of it will be handed over to the Waller County District Attorney. The DA will then decide what “criminal charges may be warranted.”
The DA, Elton Mathis, has issued more than one statement about the case, but the key takeaway from those is that the DA’s office considers rolling coal to be assault, according to one statement:
Rolling coal when a person is in the vicinity and when the individual rolling coal intentionally or knowingly causes that excess exhaust to contact that bystander is AT A MINIMUM an assault. They are causing their vehicle to “spit” on a living, breathing, human being that is worthy of dignity and not having his or her person violated. That simple assault is easily elevated to a jail eligible offense if bodily injury occurs, which can be caused by entry of toxic particles into mouth, nose and eyes. Waller County law enforcement agencies all across the county are being reminded today of the availability of these and other charges which can be brought against individuals acting in such a criminal manner. The underlying investigation and gathering of evidence by Waller P.D. Is still progressing.
Earlier this year, another man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after running over a group of cyclists in Waller County, resulting in two deaths in 2017.
The DA is moving ahead with an accident reconstructionist to determine why the teenager hit the cyclists, as KTRK reports. The findings of that investigation, along with whatever is handed over by the police, could lead to the case being tried before a grand jury in October or November of this year.