Port Arthur man who caused wreck that killed Beaumont officer indicted on 2nd charge

Published 12:38 am Friday, April 22, 2022

A Port Arthur man who this week admitted to causing a wreck that killed one Beaumont police officer and injured another is expected to plea next month to a second charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Luis Torres, 20, entered a guilty plea to an intoxication manslaughter charge Tuesday, less than an hour before his trial was planned to begin.

As part of the agreement, a second charge of intoxication assault was lowered to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for which Torres was indicted Wednesday.

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He is expected to plea guilty to the new charge May 23 prior to sentencing, said lead prosecutor Pat Knauth with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

“There are no winners in this situation — for the Powell family, the Yarbrough family or the Beaumont Police Department,” Knauth said. “We’re trying to move forward in the best way possible for them.”

Torres was said to have a blood alcohol level of .296 on Aug. 9, 2020, when he drove the wrong way on Cardinal Drive near the Texas 347 when his vehicle collided head on with a BPD patrol unit.

Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, 23, died at the scene.

Officer Gabriel Fells, who was 28 at the time, was seriously injured and underwent surgery before he was released from the hospital.

“We are pleased that there’s a guilty plea in the case. We know there’s nothing that can bring Sheena back to us,” BPD Officer Haley Morrow said Tuesday. “Beaumont Police Department has been supportive of her family and been by their side the past two years and continue to be there for them.”

Speaking with audible emotion, Morrow said Yarbrough-Powell was small in stature but big in personality and kindness.

“She wasn’t someone you didn’t want to be around,” she said. “She was always joyful and a ray of light, and it’s definitely a big loss. It’s tragic when anyone with so much potential is taken.”

Morrow said Yarbrough-Powell’s family have been strong and brave while facing the tragedy, adding their hope is people will learn a lesson about driving while intoxicated.

“For Beaumont Police Department, it’s different because we constantly respond to those calls, and I think most people don’t realize we have to take our emotions out of it,” she said. “When it comes to someone we all love and saw every day, it hurts a lot more. We’re grateful for the guilty plea.”

An additional stipulation to Torres’ agreement is he will serve no more than 30 years for the intoxication manslaughter charge, and the sentence for both charges will run concurrently. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Torres has been in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility since 2020 on bonds totaling $750,000.