Former coach says he tried to make a difference in deadly police chase suspect's life

A woman is fighting for her life in the hospital and a man is dead after HPD says Damian West hit their car during a police chase.

Jessica Willey Image
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Former coach says he has regrets after man charged in deadly crash
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"Life is about choices... it's something I'll preach to my kids for the rest of my time," the former coach and family-friend of the 21-year-old suspect said.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Larry Owens saw the video of Damian West from his first court appearance, as well as West's mugshot, he says he saw something most viewers did not.

"He knows he messed up. He messed up," said Owens.

The 21-year-old is charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Houston police say he caused a deadly crash on Hempstead Highway Friday night that killed an innocent driver and critically injured his passenger.

Now, West is an accused murderer, but Owens sees something different.

"All I see is a little kid. A little kid who would come to our house every day and play, run around and have fun," Owens said.

For about a decade, from elementary school to high school, West played basketball with Owens' son. They jumped on the trampoline and just goofed around. Owens and his wife, Yulonda, had that kind of household. Now, they regret not being there for him longer.

"You just try to be a positive influence on them because you don't want them to end up like what just happened," said Owens.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Man accused of leading police on chase ending in deadly crash was out on $100 bond, records show

According to police, West was fleeing from a so-called 'street takeover' officers had just broken up.

At speeds reaching 100 miles an hour, police say West ran a red light and caused a chain-reaction crash involving four to five other vehicles. Hoang Tran, 31, was identified as the man killed.

"Don't get me wrong, condolences and blessings to the family and to the victims. I can just imagine how they're feeling right now," said Owens. "I mean, you took a life. You almost took another life, and, Lord willing, that other person pulls through. We're praying for them. We're praying for the family. But it's just a little different for us because we're on the other side."

SEE ALSO: Exclusive video shows illegal street takeover moments before suspect leads deadly police chase

And so, for Owens, who has coached little league football for 17 years, he will turn his family's heartache about West into a lesson for his players.

"This life is about choices. It's about choices. I hope a lot of kids can learn from this. It's something I'll preach to my kids for the rest of my time coaching football," Owens said.

West is being held in jail on a $400,000 bond. Officials said his aggravated assault charge could be upgraded to murder if the woman in critical condition does not survive her injuries.

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