PEARLAND, Texas – A woman was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter Tuesday after a Pearland police officer was killed in a head-on collision in June 2016.
Amber Willemsen, 38, was charged with intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer.
Investigators said she admitted to drinking a beer and two cocktails before the two-vehicle crash that killed Pearland Officer Endy Ekpanya.
It took the jury just more than a couple of hours to hand over a guilty verdict.
Investigators said Ekpanya was driving eastbound on FM 518 when Willemsen, a former Clear Lake assistant principal who was going westbound, crossed the center line and struck the officer head-on. Willemsen told police she was headed to a friend's house after leaving work at the Ritz Gentlemen's Club when it happened. At the time, Willemsen was on DWI probation in another case.
In Tuesday's punishment hearing, the jury heard from a Friendswood police officer who had stopped Willemsen for DWI in December of 2011.
The officer said she had slurred her words, wasn't wearing shoes and had showed six of eight signs in a sobriety test that she was intoxicated and described his testing as being "conservative"-- giving her the benefit of the doubt.
Also taking the stand, was Willemsen's mother, who had talked about Willemsen's drinking and drug use. Willemsen's mother said her daughter would drink behind family members' backs. She also told her family about her experience with drugs.
Her mother said the family had decided not to let her stay at home around Memorial Day weekend of last year, saying Willemsen was frequently upset with the family.
The night of the accident, she described Willemsen as being "scared."
It was the first time a Pearland Police Department officer has been killed in more than 40 years.
The punishment hearing will continue Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Brazoria County Courthouse.
Pearland Police Chief J.L. Spires issued this statement:
The loss of an officer in the line of duty is never easy; the impact is felt by the entire department and the community; however, none are affected more than those that first responded to the scene. I would like to first recognize and thank the dispatchers who received the calls of Endy’s crash and the police officers, Firefighters and flight medics who responded to the scene that fateful night in June, 2016.
They carried out heroic efforts to try and save the life of our fallen Brother and worked courageously and honorably, even when faced with the grim reality that Endy’s injuries were fatal.
I would also like to recognize the outstanding work of investigators from the Pearland Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department and others who collected evidence and conducted interviews for the investigation. They dedicated countless hours in the days, weeks, and months that followed this crash to make sure the defendant in this case would receive a fair trial.
I would like also to recognize the outstanding work of the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office, especially Jerri Yenne, Mary Aldous, and Ian Patin for their months of preparation of the case that got us to where we are today.
Over the last few weeks as this case was presented in court, witnesses were called to testify, evidence was presented and then the men and women of the jury deliberated.
Today as the guilty verdict was read we are satisfied that justice has been done.
The past year has been a long and difficult journey for the Pearland Police Department; however, it is not one that we have had to make on our own.
We have had great support from our community, our Citizen’s Police Academy, our chaplains, the 100 Club of Pearland, our co-workers from other departments in the city and even from strangers from around the nation; each of whom took the time to reach out to us with prayers and kind words after Endy’s death.
Today’s verdict is just the next step in the healing process for Endy’s family, this department and our community. The effects of that terrible night in 2016 will continue to be felt for years to come. We will not forget Endy as we move forward, but with this verdict we can now continue the long process of healing. I ask that you keep Lucy, Julian and Endy's mother, Ms. Addy and our department in your prayers.