State representative agrees to take '40 Minutes Ago' issues to Austin

State representative agrees to take '40 Minutes Ago' issues to Austin

MINEOLA, TX (KLTV) - Two and a half years have passed since the fatal wreck that killed Kevin Jones of Longview. He was hit head-on by a drunk driver, Pedro Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was traveling the wrong way on Interstate 20 just 40 minutes after being pulled over by a Department of Public Safety Trooper.

Time has not brought healing for Jones' mother who knows his death could have been prevented. She wants to make sure that what happened to her son never happens to another Texas family.

"Our state officials... how would they have felt if this had been one of their loved ones? 'Whoops? My trooper didn't do his job?' I don't think so," says Martha Chavis, Kevin Jones' mother.

Thursday, Texas State Representative Bryan Hughes watched the entire dash camera video that gives insight into the events leading up to Jones' death. Hughes saw the field sobriety test, apparent language barrier and the interactions between Trooper Leland Borden and the driver for himself.

"It's a tragedy when anyone is killed, but when it's [involving] a drunk driver and a situation like this... you don't really know what to say," says Hughes.

He adds, "I know that no Texas highway patrolman would leave someone on the side of the road that they knew were drunk."

State law enforcement records show that Trooper Borden's Spanish is considered "intermediate." He completed 51 credit hours of Spanish for Law Enforcement in 2008.

"You would think [the Spanish training] would be the interactions you could expect in a traffic stop, but I don't know the details. Obviously, we need to make sure that we're learning what we need for situations like that," says Hughes.

Did the language barrier impact the field sobriety test? Some viewers who have watched the dash camera video say that the field sobriety test was complete and Rodriguez passed... others say he did not. However, Trooper Borden answers this question himself on dash camera video from the fatal crash scene. Another trooper asks Borden, point blank, if he did a field sobriety test on Rodriguez.

"Did you do any field sobriety on him or anything?" asks the unidentified trooper?

"He couldn't understand me," replies Trooper Borden.

After Trooper Borden walks away, the unidentified trooper is even compelled to immediately tell another trooper what Borden just said.

"Did you hear what just happened? The trooper in Harrison County stopped this guy... let him go," says the unidentified trooper.

Hughes says, in a state with a constantly growing Hispanic population, there will always be room for improvement when it comes to language barriers.

"We're always looking for ways to learn and do better when things don't go like they're supposed to or when there are unexpected consequences," says Hughes.

Hughes agrees to take this issue to the criminal jurisprudence committee in Austin. He is one of nine committee members with the power to push for the change that could stop something like this from happening again.

"This is definitely getting a thorough look and whatever needs to be done is going to be done. I can assure you of that," Hughes adds.

Other states that border Mexico have differing policies on how to handle language barriers during traffic stops. New Mexico State police say they will send a bilingual officer to a traffic stop if there is a language barrier. Arizona says their state police department does not require Spanish training for their officers. They say they just, "do the best we can." California says their highway patrol officers have Spanish training as well, but their officers can also call dispatch for a translator in major cases.

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