EL PASO, Texas - The driver who allegedly ran over and killed an El Paso teacher on Thanksgiving day lied to police because he "was scared because he did not have papers" and asked his father to report the suspect vehicle as stolen, a criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7 states.
Joel Josue Velasquez Herrera, 24, was originally charged with Accident Involving Death. On November 30, 2018, police announced Velasquez Herrera is now facing additional charges: manslaughter and tampering with evidence. His bond is now set at $510,000.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed an immigration detainer on Velasquez, who is in the country illegally. The detainer will allow ICE to take custody of Velasquez, of Ciudad Juarez, if he is released from jail after posting bond or if he beats the charges in court.
Police said Velasquez struck and killed 28-year-old Amanda Weyant, a teacher at Eastwood Heights Elementary, at about 1:45 a.m. on November 22, 2018 at Mesa and Cincinnati. Surveillance footage shows Weyant using a crosswalk when she was struck and killed. Witnesses at the scene told police Weyant crossed the street when the pedestrian walk signal indicated she could cross. Weyant was pronounced dead at the scene.
The criminal complaint states surveillance footage obtained by police shows the driver of a red vehicle, identified as Velasquez, running the red lights at Mesa and Glory Road and then at Mesa and Cincinnati moments before striking Weyant. Velasquez allegedly failed to stop at the scene and kept heading south on Mesa, eventually making a left turn onto Robinson Street.
Witnesses told police the driver of the vehicle was speeding down Mesa, the criminal complaint states.
A witness who spoke with ABC-7 said the impact was so loud, he thought two vehicles had collided. "It sounded like two cars collided head-on and when I turned around, that's when I saw her. There was nothing I could do. There was nothing anyone could do. It hurt me, because as a parent, I knew that she was not going to make it home for the holidays.
The same witness told ABC-7 those who witnessed the hit-and-run were afraid to get near Weyant's body. "It's such a tragic accident that nobody wanted to get close to her, and the only people who wanted to get close to her were the one who took out their phones to take pictures," the witness said, "As soon as I walked to her, I knew that there was no life in her."
Special Traffic Investigators at the scene recovered several pieces of the vehicle involved in the crash, including a plastic piece from the vehicle's headlamp with a General Motors logo, the court document states.
At about 8:07 a.m. on November 22nd, a homeowner in Kern Place called police to report a suspicious vehicle parked on the 1300 block of Cincinnati, east of where Weyant was struck and killed. The vehicle had damage to its hood and windshield, the homeowner said. Investigators who dusted the vehicle for fingerprints found blood and hair on the vehicle's windshield. The car was also missing the plastic headlamp piece found at the scene of the deadly hit-and-run.
Investigators traced the 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier to its owner, Jose F. Velasquez Zamora, of the 5500 block of Alabama in El Paso. Investigators went to the listed address, but there was no answer. Police later learned Jose F. Velasquez had another address at 401 Tays. Investigators went to that location and eventually made contact with Jose F. Velasquez, who told police the car had been stolen and that he had filed a police report that same morning. When questioned about the vehicle theft, Jose F. Velasquez allegedly told police his son, Joel Velasquez, told him to report the car as stolen.
Investigators met with Joel Velasquez, who allegedly provided a voluntary statement to police. Joel Velasquez told police the vehicle was stolen at the Malolam Bar on the 4900 block of Mesa. Joel Velasquez denied being involved in the wreck and insisted the car was stolen.
Two days later, on November 24th, Joel Velasquez went to the police department's central regional command center and asked to speak with a detective. Joel Velasquez allegedly confessed to police he was in fact the driver of the car that struck and killed Weyant.
Joel Velasquez allegedly told police he abandoned the car "next to some houses," threw away the keys and left behind a pack of beer as he ran away from the scene. Joel Velasquez further stated he drank about five or six beers at Malolam that night and initially lied to police because he "was scared because he did not have any papers."