CASTLE HILLS, Texas – A Castle Hills police officer nearly killed by a suspected drunken driver who plowed into a single-car crash scene filled with people says a decision he made within a microsecond saved his life.
Officer Garrett Earlywine had just arrived to the busy scene of a crash along Loop 410 and Honeysuckle Lane on June 9. He positioned his vehicle several yards back away from the scene to protect some of the vehicles and people ahead.
He was walking toward the scene when he heard a loud noise and saw something rushing at him.
“I heard tires screeching and I turned around. I saw a truck that had hit my patrol car, and I saw it was coming directly for me,” he said. “That's when I didn't really think I just kind of put my hands down on the side of the bridge and I remember jumping.”
Earlywine was on the side of the bridge when the truck hit the barricade exactly where he was standing for cover.
“It hit me in the right shoulder, and that's what kind of spiraled me off the bridge down toward the drainage ditch,” he said.
Earlywine fell about 20 feet. The antenna on his radio broke and he couldn’t call for help. He tried to help another person who landed next to him, but he quickly realized he needed help himself.
“After about 30 seconds, I couldn't move,” he said. “Everything kind of went numb on my legs, and that's when I kind of stopped moving. I was just lay there till (emergency medical services) got there.”
Earlywine struggled to retell the story, knowing he could have been killed.
Domenica Burleson, a 27-year-old mother of two, was killed, and four others, including Earlywine’s friend Cpl. Romeo Munoz, were injured.
Munoz has a long road to recovery. Earlywine wishes he could have done something to warn them, but he said everything moved so quickly.
“You know if there's a way I could better position my patrol car that took the entire damage and divert the truck a different way … but, I mean, from what I know, the truck was coming at a pretty high rate of speed. I just wish I could've stopped it,” Earlywine said.
Earlywine is on light duty. Though he’s suffering from back and shoulder injuries, he’s eager to get back on patrol and do his part to stop drunken drivers and educate people on what the law says to do when an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road.
“People, if you're going to drink and drive, make sure you have a plan,” he said. “Make sure you have someone to come get you, an Uber. I mean, rather than pay for a tow truck then get arrested for DWI or live with the fact that, you know, you just hurt somebody.”
Earlywine has been with the Castle Hill Police Department for about a year and three months. He joined the military when he was 17 years old and was a military police officer.
The driver, Jesus Ruiz Sauceda, is awaiting a grand jury indictment on intoxication manslaughter, intoxication assault and intoxication assault of a police officer.