AUSTIN, Texas — A drunken driver fatally struck a pedestrian Saturday night and drove for a half-mile with the man’s “mangled corpse” in the passenger seat of his car, Texas court records allege.
Paul Joseph Garcia, 24, of Austin, is charged with manslaughter, an accident involving injury and multiple traffic offenses, according to Travis County Jail records. He is being held in lieu of bail set at $110,000.
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details.
An arrest affidavit obtained by the Austin American Statesman states that witnesses told police they saw a man in a white 2014 Ford Focus hit a pedestrian around 10:30 p.m. Saturday on a South Austin roadway and keep going. The Ford was speeding and traveling without headlights, the witnesses told detectives.
The victim’s body was thrown through the windshield, authorities said. A shopping cart the pedestrian was pushing struck a nearby cluster of mailboxes.
“The impact with the vehicle pushed the cart into a cluster of mailboxes with enough force to bend a 2-inch diameter, galvanized steel post that supported mailboxes,” the affidavit says.
The driver, later identified as Garcia, was next spotted parking the car south of the crash site. He then walked calmly to the nearby South Austin Beer Garden, barefoot and “in a manner that caught the attention of the other patrons,” the Statesman reported.
David Pearce, co-owner of the beer garden, told Fox7 in Austin that surveillance cameras from the business caught footage of Garcia crawling out of a drainage ditch out front and approaching the building.
See footage from the beer garden below, courtesy of the news station.
Workers were immediately suspicious because Garcia “obviously looked distraught,” Pearce told the news station. They refused him service, but kept him calm and at the beer garden until police arrived.
“He was definitely looking for a place to hide and who knows?” Pearce said.
When officers arrived, they found a gruesome scene. The victim’s “mangled corpse” was found in the front passenger seat of the Focus and, according to the affidavit, Garcia had evidence on him that matched “the blood and body tissue found coated in the interior of the vehicle.”
Debris -- including body parts and pieces of Garcia’s car -- littered the roadway from the point of impact to his stopping point a half-mile away, the Statesman reported. There were no skid marks on the road to indicate Garcia hit the brakes before striking the man, whose name has not been released.
Officers conducted a sobriety test at the scene and arrested Garcia on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the newspaper said.
Pearce said he and his staff were shocked to learn what had happened.
“We had no idea what had happened up the street, and it’s just … wow,” Pearce told Fox7. “We just stopped this kid from running away from the cops.”
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