A Texas man is facing criminal charges after he allegedly allowed his 12-year-old daughter to drive a vehicle that fatally struck a man earlier this week, KHOU-TV reports.
According to police, 42-year-old Tomas Mejia let his 12-year-old daughter drive a black Ford Explorer in a Houston apartment complex around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
As the girl was attempting to exit a parking space, she applied too much pressure to the gas and allegedly caused the SUV to run over 47-year-old Enrique Vazquez and one of his dogs, killing them both at the scene.
The vehicle then struck a tree.
Vazquez’s family told KTRK-TV’s Marla Carter that he worked hard to help care for his sick mother.
Authorities on Friday said Mejia has been charged with criminal negligent homicide and endangerment of a child. Mejia allegedly first told officers he had been driving the vehicle, but they eventually determined that was a lie, KTRK-TV reports.
An infant was also in the vehicle at the time of the crash, said Sean Teare, chief of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Division told the news station.
“You can’t allow a young child to drive in a populated place,” Teare said. “If you’re going to teach a young person how to drive, go to an empty parking lot. Go somewhere where you’re not going to have the potential for taking someone’s life.”
He added: “Every time you turn the wheel, or you turn the key on a car, you are strapping on a deadly weapon.”
Police appeared to give the 12-year-old girl a field sobriety test at the scene, witnesses said.
“They did her like she was drunk,” one woman told KTRK-TV. “We were wondering why they would do that test on her if she’s just like a teenager. She’s not supposed to be drunk or anything.”
A neighbor also questioned Mejia’s decision to let his daughter drive.
“I mean, for me, I would never allow my children behind the wheel of the car, especially not at that age,” the neighbor told KTRK-TV. “Very tragic for the gentleman and his dog to be hit and killed.”