South Texas teen charged with killing 6 in wreck


Hector Ramirez, 18, of Roma, was arraigned Thursday after being released from a hospital where he was treated following the crash, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said. Ramirez was denied bond and remained in the Hidalgo County jail Friday morning. A jail official had no attorney information.

At the time of Monday's crash, Ramirez was out on bond after being arrested a week earlier while trying to cross into Mexico in a stolen vehicle.

Ramirez was fleeing from DPS Sgt. Enrique Chavez Monday at high speed northwest of Mission when DPS says Ramirez ran a red light, slamming into three vehicles. One of them was a Chevrolet Suburban carrying seven members of the Penitas family. Six of them, including four children, died.

The lone survivor, who DPS identified as 3-year-old Jesus Ortiz, is currently in foster care. A judge granted temporary custody to the state, said John Lennan, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency is searching for the boy's relatives, he said Friday.

Chavez wrote in an affidavit that was filed with the murder charges that he had attempted to pull over Ramirez because he was not wearing a seat belt. Ramirez took off and Chavez pursued with his siren and lights on, he wrote. A video camera in his unmarked car captured the pursuit and the crash, which occurred about two miles from where the chase started, according to the affidavit.

"Although, Ramirez was initially going to be stopped for a traffic violation, the attempted stop quickly turned into a felony offense of evading law enforcement in a motor vehicle," Vinger said. He said the criminal investigation into Ramirez continues.

DPS policy on pursuits leaves it up to the individual officer to decide when to abandon the chase, such as "when it becomes evident that continued pursuit will bring about unwarranted danger to the public or to the officer."

DPS officials have declined to say more about the incident while it remains under investigation. Chavez remains on active duty.

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