Liberty County constable critically injured in crash is 'awake, making progress'

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas – Liberty County Precinct 1 Constable Justin Johnston is awake and making progress Sunday after a truck slammed into his patrol vehicle, family members said.

Capt. Ken Defoor, with the Sheriff's Office, released the following statement:

"We have an amazing praise report today. Justin is awake. The prayers of God's people are being heard. He is swallowing and we are beyond encouraged. Thank you for your prayers they are working! We are looking ahead and thanking God for miracles."

He was taken off a ventilator and breathing on his own Friday.

"We are very encouraged with the doctors’ reports and Justin’s progress thus far. He is off the ventilator and breathing on his own. Thank you for your continued support and prayers," family members said.

Officials said Johnston underwent surgery this week. 

39-year-old Samuel Leyva, The man who slammed into Johnston, has been released from the hospital.

Officials said Leyva had his blood drawn at the hospital. Charges against Leyva are pending the results of the blood test. 

Justin Johnston was just doing his job, helping deputies direct traffic on Highway 146.

“There were several deputies here with marked units, with all their emergency lights on,” DeFoor said.

Investigators at the scene said the driver of a red truck, identified as 39-year-old Samuel Leyva, used the shoulder to pass a line of stopped vehicles, blew through a barricade and slammed head-on into an unoccupied county police vehicle.

Constable Johnston was standing outside it.

“The red pickup truck hit the county unit at a high rate of speed,” DeFoor said. “The truck spun around sideways, and the rear-end of the truck is what hit the constable from Precinct 1 and knocked him to the pavement.”

Johnston’s injuries were severe and he was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

“I don’t know his condition at this time, he is at the hospital and we have deputies there,” said DeFoor.

The investigation at the scene is ongoing.

The DPS is bringing in a team from Beaumont to recreate the crash scene and Highway 146 is expected to remain closed for several hours.

Investigators said Leyva had his 8-year-old daughter in the truck with him when he caused the crash.

They were both alert and talking but complaining of injuries. They were also flown to the hospital to be examined.

“Why would someone pass on the shoulder, go through a barricade and hit a car head-on?” DeFoor said. “That’s hopefully what the DPS investigation will figure out.”