The illegal immigrant accused of killing a Houston police officer in an alleged drunk driving accident made his first court appearance today. The man's defense attorney and prosecutors are painting two very different portraits of him.
Johoan Rodriguez's court appearance comes just one day ahead of HPD Officer Kevin Will's funeral. The officer died Sunday when Rodriguez's vehicle plowed through a police barrier and struck him.
Rodriguez, 26, walked into court Wednesday, his face still showing injuries from the crash. The state said Rodriguez went around a police barricade Sunday morning and slammed into Officer Will. Court documents say the officer was investigating an earlier accident and that he yelled to an accident witness to get out of the way just before the officer was struck. Prosecutors say the officer was dragged for a long distance before Rodriguez came to a stop.
Court documents show Rodriguez's blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit and he had cocaine in his pocket.
Prosecutors say Rodriguez, who has twice been deported after being in the U.S. illegally, is also an admitted member of the street gang MS 13. Rodriguez's attorney though disputes that claim, saying he is not in a gang. He says his client has been in the U.S. since he was six years old and attended Sam Houston High School. His attorney also says he has no criminal record.
Officer Will's colleagues showed up to court today. They say it has been a tough time for them.
"It wasn't any easier today than it was the other night. It's been a hard process, it was a hard scene to go up and work. It's difficult to see your friend out there like that," said HPD Officer Don Egdorf.
"He did have beer in the car, suggesting that he purchased it from some place, possibly earlier in the night. So if there was a convenience store that recognized him, if he'd been at a house party, if there was a bartender who had seen him or a bouncer who had worked the door, anybody like that, we'd very much like to hear what they have to say," said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Catherine Evans.
Rodriguez's mother was visibly emotional as she left the courthouse today, even screaming and yelling out loud. His mother and stepfather and a few other family members showed up today.
Rodriguez was given no bond and the judge ordered him not to have contact with anyone except his attorney.
Rodriguez remains in a Harris County jail, charged with intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer, felony evading arrest and possession of a controlled substance. He has been placed on an immigration detainer. He faces 5 to 99 years or life in prison. Visitation, funeral scheduled for fallen officer
A visitation for friends and family will be held at the Klein Funeral Home, 16131 Champion Forest Drive, from 11am to 9pm today.
Funeral services will be held at Champion Forest Baptist Church, 15555 Stuebner-Airline Road, at 10am on Thursday to be followed by a private burial service.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Help for fallen officer's family
The 100 Club announced that donations are being accepted to its "Survivor's Fund," which provides benefits to the dependents of peace officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.
Officer Kevin Will, 38, died in the line of duty on Sunday morning, May 29, 2011, while working a hit-and-run motorcycle accident on 610 North Loop near Yale. A $10,000 check will be given to Officer Will's family to assist with any needs they may have. Additional financial support for the family will be provided, after a review is made by the Club, to include current financial and children's educational needs.
If you wish to help, contributions may be made at www.the100club.org, or mailed to 100 Club Survivor's Fund, 5555 San Felipe Street, Ste 520, Houston TX 77056-2733. One-hundred percent of "Survivor's Fund" donations go to the dependents of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.