HOUSTON – A Houston police officer was suspended for 10 days for mishandling a pedestrian crash investigation that killed a man while he was running in the Heights earlier this year, according to an internal department memo obtained by Axios Houston.
Ryan Lutz, 35, was minutes into his run the morning of April 5 when a driver of a pickup truck hit him and his 3-year-old rescue dog, Orbit, near 900 West 25th Street in The Heights.
Orbit died at the scene and Lutz spent 10 days in the hospital before he died.
“I kissed him that morning, and I think about that sometimes and I’m like, ‘Man, like, that was the last time I kissed him,’” his wife of more than seven years Izaura Lutz told KPRC 2. “I noticed him take this gasp and then I knew that after that, it was going be just the last one. I just said, ‘I love you, and I’m going to be OK.’”
He normally ran with a friend, but didn’t that day, she said.
A couple of hours after the crash, officers at the scene released the driver who hit Lutz after they determined he wasn’t impaired, according to a news release from the department.
But only a few minutes after the driver was released and drove a couple of blocks up the street, the driver hit a parked Tesla, according to court documents.
Prateek Kumar was identified as the driver and the officers investigating the second crash ordered a blood draw.
According to the internal memo obtained by Axios Houston, the blood test revealed Kumar had fentanyl and other drugs in his system. He was charged with driving while intoxicated for the second crash involving the Tesla.
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department on Friday night confirmed the facts of Axios Houston’s report to KPRC 2 but declined to provide additional details or a statement from the department.
But now, almost seven months later, Kumar still has not been charged in the first crash that killed Lutz.
“How do you like not charge anyone in that scenario, and then when you hit a car is when you charge them for a DWI?,” Izaura Lutz said. “Something in my gut just tells me that it just doesn’t feel … it doesn’t feel right.”
According to the memo, the officer investigating the first crash initially requested a drug recognition expert (DRE) at the crash scene. When one wasn’t available, he should have taken Kumar to the Joint Processing Center in Downtown Houston for further investigation.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner wrote in the memo that the officer violated department policy and failed to properly investigate a suspected intoxicated driver.
The officer was suspended for 10 days and allowed to return to work earlier this week, according to the memo.
Izaura calls the punishment insufficient for such a “big mistake.”
“How many more incidences like this is going to happen and then like, they don’t follow protocol for it and then they let them go, and then they kill another human?,” Izaura Lutz said.
Her faith is helping her through the harder days and her strength is helping her turn the page.
“These waves are going to come, and you just, you face them, and you deal with them, and you know, you always end up on shore,” she said. “This grief is … always going to be there. It’s never going to go away.”