El Paso

Police report: Parkland M.S. student killed on Loop 375 ran into truck's path

YISD denies supporting the walkout

EL PASO, Texas - According to a police report, the Parkland Middle School student who was killed on Loop 375 had crossed the highway before walking back into traffic and getting hit by a truck.

The driver told El Paso police investigators that he could not avoid hitting Jonathan Alexander Benko, 11, on April 20.

The police report obtained by ABC-7 stated a group of students jumped the fence separating Parkland from Loop 375 during a school walkout protesting gun violence. The group headed north across the eastbound lanes of Loop 375, then the westbound lanes.

According to the report, the group crossed back over the westbound lanes, but Benko went back into the middle of the freeway. A driver heading westbound said he hit his brakes and swerved to the right, but could not avoid him. 

Other motorists stopped to help, including a doctor who gave medical aid. Benko was transported to University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Students and parents at Parkland were shocked by the crash. Ysleta ISD has sent counselors to the school to help grieving classmates.

Benko's mother is an employee at UMC. The UMC Foundation has set up a memorial fund in Benko's honor.  

A memorial was held Wednesday night. Benko's family declined to speak to ABC-7, but an uncle is quoted in the El Paso Times that he is questioning the district's actions in keeping students safe during the walkout, which correlated with student actions nationwide protesting gun violence.

YISD superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre told ABC-7 Wednesday that it "simply isn't true" that the district and the school endorsed, sponsored or promoted the walkout.

 "We don't anticipate any change in policy," De La Torre said, adding, "In this case, students were afforded an alternative activity.

"You'll always have at least a group of students (who use) an event like a national walkout day as an excuse to take a break from the rigor of learning," he continued. "There are other students who clearly had no idea why they walked out. They certainly weren't protesting gun control laws or promoting gun control laws."

The superintendent says about 400 students congregated on the school's football field during the walkout but 900 did not leave the classroom.


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