Man in custody killed, 2 deputies injured in Westpark Tollway wrong-way crash

HOUSTON – A man who was in law enforcement custody was killed Sunday and two Harris County deputies were injured when they were hit by a vehicle going the wrong way on the Westpark Tollway.

The crash was reported about 11:30 p.m. on the Eldridge Parkway entrance ramp to the tollway.

Investigators said the two deputies were transporting a man, identified by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office as 42-year-old Rene Rivas, to jail when another vehicle slammed head-on into the patrol car as they were entering the tollway.

"It wasn’t like a wrong turn," said Sean Teare, of the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "The information we have -- this guy was going for quite a while the wrong-way on the Westpark Tollway before he hit these three people."

READ: How the toll road wrong-way driver alert system works

Rivas, who was in custody in connection with a drunken-driving incident, died on his way to a hospital, investigators said. One of the deputies, identified by the Harris County Sheriff's Office as 34-year-old C. Drake, suffered two broken bones in his foot. The other deputy, identified by the Sheriff's Office as 36-year-old P. Zelaya, suffered a concussion, investigators said.

Investigators said Rivas was secured in the back seat at the time of the crash.

Authorities identified the driver of the vehicle that hit the cruiser as 39-year-old Patrick Mukuria Njogu, who suffered a broken leg in the crash.

Driver has history of drunken driving

Patrick Njogu is seen in a previous mug shot released July 22, 2019, by the St. Louis County Police Department.

Teare said the suspect was well over the legal limit and that he is a repeat offender. He said tests showed Njogu’s blood alcohol content was 0.23 at the time of the crash, nearly three times the legal limit. 

“It is not his first or his second or, sadly, even his third,” Teare said.

He said Njogu has three previous convictions on drunken driving charges – one in Illinois and one in Missouri. He has been arrested at least five times in connection with drunken driving charges, investigators said. 

Teare said that the priority in the case will be to try to determine where Njogu was prior to the crash.

“We are going to utilize every investigative tool we have in our toolbox to find out where he was if anyone participated in getting this individual that intoxicated and putting him on the roadway, we are going to find them and prosecute them under the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Njogu will likely be charged with first-degree felony murder and intoxication assault of a peace officer, Teare said.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Njogu suffered a broken leg, not one of the deputies.

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