Man who drove off elevated I-35 ramp, killing passenger, will be charged with murder, sheriff says

James Chancellor, 19, was speeding away from deputy, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar

SAN ANTONIO – A 19-year-old man who lost control of his car and drove off an elevated off-ramp from Interstate 35 downtown early Thursday will be charged with murder, according to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, Salazar said that James Chancellor had a probation violation for a felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

An unidentified 33-year-old woman who was a passenger in the car was killed in the crash, which happened after 2:30 a.m. on the exit ramp to Frio Street. She has not been identified.

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Salazar said Chancellor was trying to get away from a deputy at the time.

The deputy, who was on traffic patrol, initially had spotted Chancellor on southbound I-35, going too slowly.

“Doing about 40 miles per hour on the highway,” Salazar said. “(The deputy) initially tried to traffic stop that vehicle.”

The sheriff says the deputy told Chancellor over a loudspeaker to pull off the highway because the area in which he was stopping was too dangerous.

“As the driver exited the highway at the Frio/Cesar Chavez exit, he accelerated sharply,” he said.

Chancellor lost control of the car, causing it to fly off the elevated highway and smash into the ground below.

The car was left crumpled, its roof ripped off.

The woman passenger died at the scene, while Chancellor was rushed to a hospital for treatment.

Salazar said the man suffered serious injuries.

“The vehicle traveled, I believe they’re telling us, about 110 feet after leaving that roadway, and probably tumbled end over end and barrel-rolled,” Salazar said.

He said the deputy never got a chance to officially initiate a chase before the crash happened.

Instead, Salazar says, the deputy called for help after finding the “horrific” crash scene.

Investigators are still trying to find out exactly why Chancellor tried to run.

The sheriff said they did find out that the man had several outstanding warrants.

He also had a firearm and possible stolen checkbooks inside the car, he said.

“There was a blood draw done and we will be analyzing that blood to see if intoxicants played a role in it,” Salazar said.

The area where the crash happened apparently was the site of a previous crash, also involving a death.

When the car flew off the highway, it hit a memorial dedicated to a previous crash victim as it landed, Salazar said.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.