Driver charged in Christmas Day racing deaths
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Updated 9:04 am, Monday, January 22, 2018


A driver has been charged in the Christmas Day racing deaths, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said Monday. Photo: Scott Engle/Montgomery County Police Reporter

A man police  said they believe caused the deaths of two people during a high-speed race on Christmas Day has been arrested, the Harris County District Attorney's Office announced Monday morning.

Devante Franklin, 25, is charged with two counts of racing resulting in death and one count of racing resulting in serious bodily injury following the four-car fatal wreck on Texas 249 near the Beltway. The man Franklin was allegedly racing died in the collision.

"Houston's roadways are not raceways," Sean Teare, chief of the Vehicular Crimes Division at DA's office, said in a statement. "Two people are dead; a third is recovering and another now faces 20 years in prison. This tragedy should never have happened."

According to court records, multiple witnesses--including a man seriously injured in the wreck--told police they had seen two Ford Mustangs zooming down Texas  249 at speeds that appeared to exceed 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic as they went. It seemed to them the Mustangs were racing, they said.

A 62-year-old grandfather, Johnny Patterson, was turning out of a parking lot onto Texas 249 just as the Mustangs were approaching. As Patterson crossed the center turn lane, police say the black Ford Mustang, driven by Kevin Strong, came barreling into the driver's side of Patterson's SUV. Franklin, driving a white Mustang, then hit the SUV again, police say. The black Mustang also struck an Acura, causing serious injury to the driver.

Patterson died as a result of the accident, and so did Strong. The driver of the Acura, Robert Gonzales, was transported to the hospital.

Detectives examined the "black box" of Strong's Mustang and found that Strong was traveling 114 mph for nearly five full seconds prior to impact. He had been accelerating at 100 percent, until just one second prior to hitting Patterson, when Strong hit the brake.

Police claim Franklin was traveling just as fast or faster.

Franklin faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for the second-degree felonies.

"Our patrol deputies remain on heightened alert for signs of illegal street racing," Maj. Jesse Razo, head of the Harris County Sheriff's Office Patrol Bureau, said in a statement. "Those who choose to endanger the lives of other innocent drivers will not get warnings. They'll go to jail."
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